Loyola’s student population rarely heads north of Pratt Boulevard, unless hopping a train to Evanston. However, Simone Freeman, 24, is hoping to change that. Sol Café, Freeman’s coffee shop and what she terms a “community space,” opened during the winter break at 1615 W. Howard St.
“I see this space as being a lot more than just providing coffee for the person that comes in. I see it as a creative hub and a hub for the community to use as their own,” Freeman said.
Freeman, who grew up in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, was attracted to Rogers Park by the diversity and community desire for a coffee shop. She hopes that Sol Café can help aid Rogers Park and Howard Street in developing responsibly into a prosperous community.
“The whole concept is to grow slowly, help people find better jobs and better business around here to grow the area so no one actually has to leave and everyone can kind of integrate in an inclusive way,” Freeman said.
Sol Café has a history of coffee and community involvement, as the concept previously existed as a kiosk Freeman ran for two and a half years while she was an undergraduate student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She purchased the kiosk from its former owner, and created an entirely student-run enterprise independent from the university. The business grew as students got involved any way they could, including selling baked goods or designing fliers. Freeman hopes to recreate this sense of community in Sol Café’s new location.
“It took a mind of its own, without having to raise the prices it grew, because people kind of felt it was their own. So I kind of have that mentality with my employees … and I hope that customers can do that as well,” Freeman said.
The shop lends itself perfectly to the community feel and creative vibe Freeman says she wants to encourage. The space is open and bright, with a modern edge, thanks to exposed pipes and stark white walls. However, the café still feels comfortable and welcoming, with large wooden tables and counters, vintage furniture and rotating art pieces, which Freeman says will change to allow local artists the chance to display their work. The shop has plans for live music, spoken word, poetry performances and story time for kids every Sunday.
Prices at the Café are noticeably cheaper than other coffee shops of the same caliber, with a small drip coffee costing $1.35. Freeman said she hopes this pricing and the community feel of the space will allow the café to bring high quality to everyone. Add to the low cost free Wi-Fi and at least one outlet at every single seat in the café, this place is a haven for the student wanting to do work, socialize or relax.
The shop sources everything from flavoring syrups to beans from local Chicago area business. Featuring the recently opened Bow Truss Coffee as their beans, along with local pastries, Sol Café has plans to soon expand its offerings to include soups and sandwiches, and is planning to begin serving beer and wine sometime in the spring, according to Freeman.
Verdict: With its cheap prices, good coffee, welcoming atmosphere and open space, Sol Café is a great space to hang out, enjoy a cup of coffee or hold a group meeting. The only downside? Its distance from campus. But, what Sol Café is offering makes the short trip worth it.
Get there: Take the 147 or the Red Line north to the Howard stop. The Café is just steps from the station.
Hours: Mon – Fri: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm Sat – Sun: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
By Hannah Helbert