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Portage Park's Fannie's Cafe Asks Community For Help To Stay Open

The cafe faces financial issues after power outages, plumbing failures

January 30, 2019 - 12:22 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Three years ago, Fannie's Cafe expanded to it's current space on the Northwest Side. 

The popular neighborhood bakery took pride in its hand-crafted goods and the move was to designed to help the business grow.

"We are all about craft and community and a special vibe of comfort and happiness," said owner, Stephanie Rybandt.

"We've become a vehicle for outreach programs. A meeting space for neighborhood organizations and non-profits. A gathering space for family parties and community fundraisers. We're the bakery that still makes your grandma's coffee cake. The cafe where your uncle's band can play at brunch. Where your friends handmade knitted scarf can be on display and for sale.  Where your kids build Gingerbread houses."

But with the move into the space at 5040 W. Montrose Ave., came a lot of costly setbacks and struggles. In the first 18 months of opening at the new location, the bakery suffered through five major power outages and three plumbing system failures that caused the business to lose approximately $20,000. In addition to those struggles, the bakery was supplying goods to Treasure Island, that dropped their small vendors before going out of business. 

During this time, Rybandt hoped to obtain a small business loan through a bank or the SBA to help stay afloat. But while she searched, the business fell behind on bills - rent, taxes, utilities. 

With nowhere else to turn Rybandt has turned to the community. She launched a GoFundMe campaign on Jan. 23, asking for a total of $65,000 to help Fannie’s Cafe pay back rent to avoid eviction and payments to the State of Illinois on taxes owed. The money will also be used for utilities to avoid shut-offs. 

As of Wednesday, the GoFundMe had raised over $26,000 of its $65,000 goal. 

Rybandt posted an update to the page stating the money raised so far has helped Fannie's Cafe pay a few bills.

"We CAN STAY IN BUSINESS! We know many will wonder if this ship is worth saving. We promise it is! Our monthly revenues are enough to pay our bills. We are not asking for money to pay every debt. If we can fill that hole from the beginning of our time here we can stay in business and continue to grow and offer even more amazing things to our community," Rybandt said in the crowdfunding campaign.

"There is so much more we want to do. We don't believe this is how the story ends for Fannie's and we don't want to say goodbye."