Washington Park’s Retreat at Currency Exchange welcomed two new culinary artists in residence this fall. But come New Year’s, all three fledgling businesses will be moving on.
A coffeehouse, a craft cocktail business and a catering business. They’re all at Washington Park’s Retreat at Currency Exchange.
Retreat, created by artist Theaster Gates, is a Black and Brown business incubator. While it has featured coffee roasters Monday Coffee Co. since August, the incubator at 305 E. Garfield Blvd. opened its doors to two more culinary artists this fall.
In October, Tim Williams’ craft cocktail business, Pour Souls, joined the incubator. That same month, Chef Jazer Syed set up his Collective Ventures catering business in the kitchen.
But by the end of January, all three businesses will be gone. Here’s what’s been happening — and what’s up next — for the culinary artists.
With a goal to end the “whitewashing of the coffee industry,” Monday Coffee Co. kicked off its residency with DJs and boozy lattes. But co-founders Amanda Harth and Felton Kizer also made it a place for business advice.
The coffeehouse had a financial adviser giving out free advice for small businesses during a “Small Business Tuesday” event; a Tuesday tax discussion; and different featured chefs every Monday.
“Coming from marginalized communities and figuring out how can I get access to these resources in these spaces and now that we’ve been blessed to do that, it’s only natural that we are able to do the same for colleagues or people looking for an opportunity to connect or build something of their own in this space,” Harth said.
Harth and Kizer are looking to keep building connections, even as they leave. They’ll be heading to both familiar and new spaces.
Throughout the summer, Monday Coffee Co. spent Mondays “taking over” a Soho Studio at Soho House. But, Kizer said, the members-only social club has asked them to stay.
“They saw our passion, they saw the community we bring out,” Kizer said.
The coffee shop operates out of Soho House’s first-floor bar, 113 N. Green St., Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
And it’s expanding into Garfield Park.
Visitors to the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., can catch the coffee brewers with their mobile coffee cart from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.
“That’s a totally different vibe and a different space, and I’m really excited to see what the community looks like there,” Kizer said.
Monday Coffee Co. will stay at Retreat through January.
“A bar without a bar.” That’s how creative director Tim Williams described his craft cocktail business. He started it 10 years ago but struggled to keep it going — until four years ago.
“I just needed momentum,” Williams said.
Momentum kicked in when Williams was asked to do an event. Soon, other opportunities began to pop up.
“We did nine events in four days,” he said.
But just as quickly as the momentum hit, it dissipated in the pandemic.
Williams knew the business would die if he didn’t come up with another way to keep craft cocktails necessary when people couldn’t host events.
“We worked more on becoming a brand, a household name that was associated with cocktails,” he said. “We created at-home cocktail starters. That sustained us and kept us on people’s minds.”
Then, they branched out even more, hosting virtual cocktail lessons and consulting with restaurants.
Now Williams and his team, helped by his director of operations Danielle Lewis, are delving into curating menus, drinks and business opportunities.
Williams wants Pour Souls to become the go-to cocktail catering business in Chicago.
“Creating community has become increasingly important to me,” he said. “I think Retreat gives us an opportunity to create community, farther south than we’ve ever been. My intention is, when people think about cocktails at any sort of scale in Chicago, I want them to think about Pour Souls.”
The third business at Retreat, Collective Venture, is led by Chef Jazer Syed.
Syed was born in the Philippines but his parents moved him and his brother to Detroit when Syed was 5.
“We’ve always been introduced to different cultures from Indian to Filipino to American,” Syed said. “We traveled a lot — I was addicted to the idea of traveling. And I found out food is the most honest representation of a culture.”
Now, Syed melds his Indian and Filipino heritage with his travel experiences to create stunning, delicious meals.
Syed has worked at places like Café Marie-Jeanne and Fat Rice, but he loves the community at the incubator.
“The soul of the place, the idea of the place, is camaraderie,” he said.
The incubator is a learning experience for Syed. He’s not sure what Collective Venture will look like in the future — a catering business, a restaurant or something else — but he knows it will be something healthy and positive for the community.
“We can all cook, we can all do it,” Syed said. “If I can teach someone to cook, that’s even better. If I can inspire someone to cook or want to learn more about food or the culture, it’d be great. It’s about experiences, it’s influence, it’s meeting great people.”
Pour Souls and Collective Venture ended their stay at Retreat Dec. 31. No announcements on new residencies have been made.
Know about breaking news as it happens. We follow the stories and update you as they develop.
Check your inbox for a welcome email.
Temperatures could drop as low as -9 degrees Sunday night, forecasters said.
Detroit turned in a lackluster performance after several competitive games. Three of the Lions’ previous four losses had been by four points or less.
And the countdown to the end of the Matt Nagy era is underway.
The Buccaneers wide receiver removed his uniform, pads and more Sunday before leaving the field of play topless in the middle of the third quarter as his team trailed the New York Jets.
After two near-misses, Quinn’s strip-sack of Mike Glennon gave him 18 sacks for the season — breaking Richard Dent’s record of 17.5 set in 1984. “It’s an honor,” he said.
No-shows at Soldier Field another reminder of another bad season.