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Sol Cafe Opens Monday in Rogers Park 'Cafe Desert'

By Benjamin Woodard | December 9, 2012 8:52am | Updated on December 9, 2012 3:22pm

ROGERS PARK — The last time Simone Freeman entered the coffee business, it didn't end well.

But this time, Freeman, 24, hopes her new coffee shop, Sol Cafe, which opens Monday in Rogers Park, takes a different route.

The controversy began when in fall 2009 Freeman, then a student at George Washington University in Washington D.C., purchased a failing coffee stand on H Street, in the heart of the school's Foggy Bottom campus. She hired 10 employees, renamed the stand Sol Cafe, and starting turning a profit.

"We put up the wings every morning at it was a full-functioning cafe. It ended up being a hub" for students to hang out, the Chicago native said.

But she didn't know the vending permit couldn't be transferred from the old owner, and at time, the District of Columbia wasn't granting new permits.

So the district shut it down in October 2009.

Now Freeman has graduated, moved back to Chicago, and has a bigger space, at 1615 W. Howard St., to resurrect Sol Cafe. She said Howard was a "cafe desert" and people who lived there had been asking for one for years.

The buzz began building over the summer as Freeman transformed the vacant office space into an open room with high ceilings and exposed-brick walls. As of Saturday afternoon, the cafe's Facebook page has garnered 720 "likes."

The cafe's decor meshes an industrial feel with a warm atmosphere. In the back corner of the room a book shelf made out of pipes and chunks of polished wood hang from the wall. And the row of light bulbs hanging above the coffee bar are encased in milk jars from a dairy farm.

At 6:30 a.m. Monday she plans to open the doors and start selling coffee from Bow Truss, a Lakeview coffee roasting company.

She said she wanted Sol Cafe to be a place for students to hang out all day and for commuters to stop by for their morning cup.

The cafe will be "a hub for creatives, artists, philosophers and interesting people," she said.

Eventually, she said, the cafe would serve beer and wine at night and host live music.