When WGN Radio’s John Williams recently interviewed co-owner Chamille Weddington, he confessed that Schweet’s signature cake was ‘one the best dang foods he’s ever had’. That impulse buy from the online store led to an invite to his weekly radio program.
This family business is owner-operated by West Side natives Brian and Chamille Weddington. Currently the company is run out of a commercial kitchen in West Loop. This April, Schweet Foods is set to open their long awaited first storefront location in Austin Village at 5051 W. Chicago Ave.
The couple is excited to embrace the challenges ahead. Although some may consider it to be tough starting a business in Austin, The Weddingtons understand that this is a vibrant community of people that appreciate good food, like a specialty line of local, handcrafted, undeniably homemade, undisputably fresh cheesecake.
Fresh. Handmade. Never Frozen.
With a year under their belt gaining the trust of consumers through catering private events, fairs and festivals, the time is now for their first brick and mortar location.
Their most popular item is The Viola; it’s a cheesecake topped with strawberries or blueberries named after Chamille’s grandmother. It was the re-engineering of family recipes that led to the launch of the business.
The Weddingtons first and foremost are educators and community activists.
Proceeds from sales goes to the Schweet Foods Scholarship. Food That Does Good is their tagline and education is of primary importance. This fund offers assistance to anyone who attends one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Awardees are eligible to have their course fees and books paid for through the program.
Recently we spoke with Chamille about the journey up to this point and how an Austin Village event helped put her on the map.
Why did you decide to bring your business to the Austin neighborhood?
I live on the west side, never left. We wanted to remain here even as our business grows. We know and care about this community, more importantly we understand the beauty of it.
What have been some of your favorite Chicago events up to this point?
As much as we wanted to participate in Chicago Black Restaurant Week this year, we decided to put the brakes on festival circuit participation and focus on our Grand Opening in Austin.
I’d have to say the Randolph Street Market in West Loop. The VIP Tent at Bud Billiken Day Parade was the best! But what put us on the map was The Boombox Austin popup shop at Mayfield & Chicago Ave.
It was our six-week summer promotion. Boombox is an incubator storefront you can leverage for the duration that you need it. When you are a small business with no time and limited resources, its important to work with partners that have very little red tape. Boombox was that partner for us.
Are there any local restaurants that you draw inspiration from?
I can’t say there is one particular model. We draw inspiration from the small, neighborhood café. A tightknit limited menu, an opportunity to know our customer and build a relationship with neighbors.
No particular favorite spots, we do enjoy Italian and Asian cuisines and of course MacArthur’s in Austin.
This has been a whirlwind 18 months for you and the team. I’m excited that the Austin neighborhood played a role in this expansion from an online model to include a physical storefront location.
When I reflect with my husband on how we got to this point. We knew we had to join forces with local associations and the experience could not have been better. Malcolm Crawford at Austin African American Business Network Association (AAABNA) has been a wealth of information and connections. Our friends over there led us to Boombox where we started gaining traction.
This interaction also let us to meeting Westside Health Authority and AV72 Chicago. These are exciting times; we wouldn’t be here without hard work.
-Chamille and Brian teach at Columbia College and Harold Washington College respectively. Majors & Programs include Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Marketing and Business Development.
-If you order your cheesecake before 2pm on any day Schweet will deliver it to any location in Chicago (and a few neighboring towns) next day at no cost.
-The Avenue is a plain Cheesecake drizzled with caramel is named after Chicago Avenue.
-Schweet Foods was the Leaders Network Chicago October 2017 Business of The Month.
Schweet’s Austin location is set to open on April 1st at 5051
-You can participate in Schweet’s upcoming community photo shoot and have your beautiful face appear on posters, window flyers, websites and more. Compensation includes your choice of a dozen cupcakes or one cheesecake. Sign up here http://bit.ly/2Fqs21H
AUSTIN COMMERCIAL TIF
City of Chicago Small Business Improvement Fund Application Rollout
The Small Business Improvement Fund, or SBIF, is a City of Chicago grant program intended to
help small business owners renovate, expand, or start-up businesses along commercial
corridors in Chicago neighborhoods. Small business owners and property owners that lease to
small businesses in the Austin Commercial SBIF can receive reimbursement grants of up to
$100,000 to cover the cost of approved remodeling work. Join local delegate agencies and the
Aldermen of the 37th and 29th Wards at the Rollout to learn more about the SBIF program!
WHEN: Noon, December 4th, 2017
WHERE: The Community Room, 4926 W. Chicago Ave.
The Application Period for the Austin Commercial SBIF will be 12/4/2017 to 1/5/2018 at 5 p.m.
The Rollout meeting will be hosted by Alderman Mitts of the 37th Ward and Alderman Taliaferro
of the 29th Ward. Admission is free and there is no RSVP needed.
The Austin Commercial TIF district encompasses four main commercial corridors within the community that suffer from vacancies, dilapidation and various non-retail uses. The goal of the TIF is to help transition portions of North Avenue, Division Street, Chicago Avenue, and Central Avenue into strong and viable shopping districts that serve Austin's residential community and, in turn, fosters residential investment. As a means of attracting viable regional and local stores to the area, TIF funds are intended to support the assembly of land into sufficient sizes for contemporary projects, also to rehabilitate existing structures. Additionally, the 256-acre district is designed to support new infrastructure improvements and corridor beautification efforts, and to provide incentives for residential projects that accommodate the community's low-income residents.
Rollout meeting will be hosted by Alderman Mitts and Alderman Taliafero. Attendance of the meeting is not a requirement to apply, but it will be very helpful to those who are interested in applying but may have questions. We hope to see you there!!
The 3rd Annual Austin Power of Life Saturday morning 5k run brought thousands to Chicago Ave + Mayfield. It wasn’t just about the race, but to bring attention to the economic renewal underway on the westside of Chicago.
The pre-race celebration landed on the first day of fall with a righteous 81-degree forecast. Austin’s two Aldermanic council members Emma Mitts, Christopher Taliaferro along with colleagues and friends took the moment to spotlight massive projects underway in the area. 2018 will see the city invest $130M in and around the neighborhood. A new Public Safety Training Academy for police and fire departments on Chicago Ave. Also, the next phase of Chicago’s Smart Lighting Project will replace all street lamps with LED fixtures that use less energy. Through the Minority Business Enterprise Participation Plan, 27% of the project will be awarded to neighborhood business.
Austin POWER of Life (People Organizing Wealth +Organizing Resources) hosts the run every year. Their conversation with the mayor relayed a simple message about the community; it needs businesses and an infusion of capital.
Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has run this race the last three years. During the celebration he took the local media in attendance to task for the stream of negative images directed towards people of color. “We want the media here to know that the vision you portray of Austin is not the people that make up Austin.“
The Mayor emphasized the importance of the having a vested interest in Austin via The Neighborhood Opportunity Plan and Retail Thrive Zone. “You cannot be what you cannot see, and that’s the reason we want to make a commitment to Austin. When every child looks at the city they should see it’s power, energy, optimism and sees it as his/her home. But if they see this city as a separate city and don’t see their future, we can never be what we need to be.”
State Rep Camille Lilly, Cook County States Attorney Kim Fox, State Representative Lashawn K. Ford, Senator Don Harmon and owner of Austin’s Sankofa Cultural Arts Center, Malcolm Crawford all participated in the run.
This event was about much more that running a race for the notion of good health, it’s about empowerment , vision and Austin not being represented by violence.
The stories the media chooses to tell are not the stories taught around the kitchen table at night. We know this all to well and the time to change that narrative is long overdue. Making sure that the rest of the city knows what we know in our heart should be a priority.
-The 5K started on Chicago Ave & Mayfield, headed south down to Race, east over to Menard then back down Chicago Ave to Cicero Ave.
-The opening ceremony included Miss. Junior Pre Teen Illinois, Demira Scott singing the national anthem.
-Winning time for the 3.1 mile race was 20 mins, 14 secs.
-The $29M Minority Business Enterprise Participation Plan for the next phase of Chicago’s Smart Light Project includes a commitment to half of their employees being ex-offenders.
- When Power of Life engaged Mayor Emanuel about empowerment opportunities to the Austin community, he response was that he has a vested interest in every Chicago community and that you are knocking on an open door.
For more scenes from a glorious Fall afternoon. Be sure to checkout our FB page. While you're there, be sure sure to click that Like button.
The 2017 Austin POWER of Life 5K Walk/Run is taking place on Saturday, September 23rd. With more than 1,000 people expected to attend, we are anxiously awaiting this special event in support of those impacted by diabetes.
Packet pick-up will be held on Thursday, September 21st and Friday, September 22nd from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm at Hope Community Church located at 5900 West Iowa Street, Chicago IL 60651 [enter via Mayfield entrance]. Only individuals that registered before 12:00 Noon on September 20th will be eligible for packet pick-up on Thursday and Friday. If you are unable to pick up your packet on either date, packets will also be available for pick up on race day beginning at 7:30 am.
RACE DAY INFORMATION
The Austin Power 5K Walk/Run Steps-Off at 8:30 am at the intersection of Chicago Avenue & Mayfield [just off the major intersection of Chicago Avenue & Austin Boulevard]. A pre-race assembly will begin at 8:00 am. Post-race activities will begin immediately following the start of the Austin Power 5K Walk/Run.
General street parking is available in the area. Public transportation is suggest. Depending on your travel direction, please contact the Chicago Transit Authority [888-968-7282 | transitchicago.com] or PACE [800-606-1282 | pacebus.com] for travel instructions.
Race Course Map
Please visit the Austin POWER 5K website to view the course map. www.AUSTINPOWER5K.com.
If you have any questions, please contact AAABNA at 773-626-4497 or HOPE [Helping Our People Excel] at 773-921-2243 or email us at: 2017AustinPower5K@gmail.com.
To further assist and continue the success of the Thrive Zone program, we will be providing city services to your local communities through satellite offices. These satellite offices will include services from the Department of Buildings, Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, and Department of Public Health. The purpose for this neighborhood outreach is to give small businesses and property owners within the Retail Thrive Zones an opportunity to discuss their specific projects with the city departments. Many of the conversations are regarding Business Start Ups, Business Licensing, Building Permits, Food Safety Regulations, and Health Inspections, among others.
We will be hosting the satellite office in the Austin Community on Thursday, September 28th
AAABNA @ SANKOFA CULTURAL ARTS AND BUSINESS CENTER,
5820 W. Chicago Ave.
Consultations can be scheduled through Mary O’Connor by emailing her at mary.o’firstname.lastname@example.org, however walk-in appointments will also be available.
2018 Roof & Porch Repair Program
A grant program for income eligible Chicago homeowners to make repairs on their roofs or porches. Interested parties must register in a lottery for a chance to apply for funds.
ONE DAY LOTTERY REGISTRATION
9a.m. to 5p.m, Thursday Set, 14, 2017
online at www.cityofchicago.org/roofandporch
or call 311
The lottery drawing will take place in late October at the Chicago Cultural Center
78 E.Washington St. Results will be posted online the following week.