HYDE PARK — Motherland Salon is in court fighting efforts by the University of Chicago to evict the salon from its 53rd Street storefront.
“Right now, I’m just hoping they will hear my voice. This is the voice of a family business,” said Sahan Kourouma, who has run the salon at 1459 E. 53rd St. for the last 20 years.
The University of Chicago bought Kourouma’s building from its owner Maria Schuster in February 2013 for $6.2 million, according to Cook County records.
In the last year, the university has cleared out all of the businesses from the building except the Indian restaurant Rajun Cajun and Motherland Salon. In October, the university announced it planned to use a portion of the building for the Chicago Innovation Exchange, a business incubator for students and faculty.
“I would love for the community to grow, but you don’t have to drive the small businesses out,” said Kourouma, who will be in court March 17 fighting allegations that she was late paying her rent.
Calmetta Coleman, a spokeswoman for the university, said she could not comment on ongoing legal action involving the university.
"While the university does not comment on pending litigation or the specifics of any tenant lease, we see locally owned businesses as important to the vibrancy of Hyde Park and have supported local business owners in a number of ways, including working to help them remain in long-term locations or identify new spaces when needed," Coleman said.
Kourouma said that over the last four years she has invested $70,000 in renovating the space, expecting to be in the storefront through the end of her lease in 2015. She said she is not sure if she will now have to leave the neighborhood.
“I grew up in the community, and this is my home,” she said.
Some of the other tenants in the building whose leases were ended early by the university have found other homes in the neighborhood.
Hyde Park Cigars, which rented the first-floor storefront directly below Motherland Salon, has expanded since leaving the building, opening a cigar lounge at 5220 S. Harper Ave. and a retail store at 1379 E. 53rd St.
In August, Schuster, the former owner of the building still home to Motherland Salon, said the university had been inquiring about buying the building since 2008. At the time, she said she had no complaints about tenants paying rent late.
“It has nothing to do with me being late,” said Kourouma, adding that she always paid on time and in full.
She said she is determined to fight the eviction and won’t let false accusations tarnish her reputation.