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Uptown Grocer Food Town Eyes Neighboring Shop for 'Walla's Cafe'

UPTOWN — Uptown grocery store Food Town wants to open a cafe next door in a part of Uptown where the owners believe options are scarce for coffee lovers.

Owner Bill Musleh, known to regulars as "Walla," said he's learned that Venus Salon and Spa next door to the store at 854 W. Montrose Ave. is closing soon, and that he wants to open a cafe in the space.

Food Town has been at the corner of West Montrose and North Hazel avenues for more than 25 years. It's owned and run by the 48-year-old Musleh and his family.

When it comes to cafes, "there isn't really any in this area besides one on Clarendon [Avenue], Dollop Coffee," said his son Omar Musleh, who is helping spearhead the cafe idea.

The 21-year-old said Uptown has been kind to his family's bottom line. Food Town, he said, has a long roster of everyday customers but thrives in the summer because of its location near the lakefront, which gets a lot of traffic during the warmest months of the year.

Now the Muslehs see a new opportunity to further capitalize on Food Town's neighborhood following and prime location by opening a cafe.

But, as Omar Musleh acknowledged, they "don't have much experience within the cafe industry." That's why the grocery store reached out to Uptown Update recently and asked the website to publish a post soliciting locals for thoughts.

Some neighbors have suggested the potential cafe serve fresh juice and breakfast sandwiches in addition to coffee and tea, and have a walk-up service window for folks outside with their dogs, according to Omar Musleh.

He said his family would consider working with a partner with more experience in the cafe business, but said at this point they are preparing to run it themselves.

The place would hopefully be open by October. There's no official name, but "Walla's Cafe" is one idea being bounced around.

"We're definitely looking forward to it, and a lot of people have been calling and emailing us with ideas and people coming in really excited for it, so we're going to go for it hopefully," Omar Musleh said. "We want some new customers to come to this area and realize we have a growing neighborhood that's changing every day for the better."

The owner of Venus Salon and Spa, where the cafe would be opened, could not be reached for comment.