The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Swim Cafe's Next Chapter: New Ownership as 'Awake Cafe' in Noble Square

By Alisa Hauser | February 24, 2014 9:52am
 Harry and Deb McKinney, right, are the new owners of Swim Cafe at 1357 W. Chicago Ave. The McKinneys will be renaming the cafe to Awake Cafe.
Harry and Deb McKinney, right, are the new owners of Swim Cafe at 1357 W. Chicago Ave. The McKinneys will be renaming the cafe to Awake Cafe.
View Full Caption
Swim Cafe/DNAinfo Chicago; Harry and Deb McKinney/Family Photo

NOBLE SQUARE — An established neighborhood cafe that went up for sale when its founder needed to close her business to focus on battling cancer will rise again, with a new name.

Closed since January, Swim Cafe at 1357 W. Chicago Ave. in Noble Square will reopen "sometime in April" as Awake Cafe, which will serve as a neighborhood coffee shop and commissary kitchen for four other cafes operated by Deb and Harry McKinney.

The McKinneys purchased Swim Cafe from founder Karen Gerod about a week ago. Last week, the McKinneys introduced themselves to the cafe's fans in a post on Swim's Facebook page.

"We are very excited to become part of this wonderful community and can't wait to meet you all! We are doing some remodeling in the café and are hoping to open soon!" the McKinneys wrote.

The South Loop residents, who are married, currently own four coffee shops, including an Awake Cafe inside of Stroger Hospital, 1969 W. Ogden Ave. on the city's West side.

Next month the McKinneys plan to open a Bean Caffe inside of Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Deb McKinney said. Bean Caffe will be similar in branding to a Bean Caffe at 2235 N. Sheffield Ave. on DePaul University's Lincoln Park campus.

According to its Facebook page, the mission of Awake Cafe is "to create safe space for people to experience amazing coffee, great food and authentic community."

McKinney said the impetus for the purchase of Swim Cafe was to build a commissary in a new location close to the highway and the other cafes they own.

Currently the McKinneys work out of a commissary kitchen in North Center, where they prepare food for Awake Cafe, the Bean Caffe as well as as Port Center Cafe at the University of Illinois at Chicago's campus.

McKinney said that while they are hoping to open sometime in April, "the first goal is getting a business license from the city" for the commissary and the second goal will be to reopen the cafe.

Deb McKinney said they are not sure yet of the operating hours for Awake. McKinney said the menu "will be similar" to the soup and pastries that Gerod offered but added she is "not sure" yet.

Gerod said Monday that she is "so happy someone will be continuing to have a cafe in the space."

"It was really important for us. I love the neighborhood so much. I am happy it will continue to be a good meeting space for people in the neighborhood," she said in a phone interview.

Gerod, a West Town resident who opened Swim Cafe almost nine years ago, said her cafe's Facebook, Twitter and website page were part of the sale. The McKinneys are the new administrators for all of the pages.  

"They own a lot of cafes and seem to know what they are doing and they will do really well there," Gerod added.

McKinney said popular menu staples at Awake Cafe are a vegetarian Caprese pesto sandwich and a chicken pesto panini in addition to breakfast sandwiches. Awake Cafe plans to brew Metropolis Coffee and serve Benjamin Tea.

"We are all about community and connecting people," McKinney said. "The further we got into Swim Cafe, it really sounded like it was a community cafe and is right in with our mission."