WOODLAWN — The smell of Belgian waffles has lingered over 61st Street ever since Greenline Coffee opened.
The coffee shop opened in early August serving Bridgeport Coffee and liege waffles made from a special dough imported from Brussels at 501 E. 61st St.
“If you go to Belgium, everywhere they have these carts,” said Paula Hamernick, manager of the coffee shop.
She said she first had the waffles while working as a flight attendant on a stopover in Belgium, where people walked around with the spongy bread wrapped in tissue paper.
Hamernick has been grounded for nearly 10 years in Woodlawn with her husband, Joel Hamernick, executive director of Sunshine Gospel Ministries.
“I’ve been looking at this building for almost 10 years. It’s been boarded up the whole time,” said Joel Hamernick, whose office is across the street at 500 E. 61st St.
He said two years ago, he and others at the nonprofit were frustrated that five years of teaching kids entrepreneurial skills had not produced a single business in the neighborhood.
He said they switched to asking some of their supporters for investments instead of donations and started thinking about how many jobs a coffee shop would create in the glazed-brick building.
Greenline Coffee has 12 employees, many of them from Sunshine’s summer jobs program.
“We have another 12 waiting for one of them to screw up so they can have their job,” Paula Hamernick said.
She said the coffee shop got 200 applications before it opened and receives several requests for applications every day.
“People aren’t poor because they want to be, it’s because there are no jobs,” Hamernick said. “Every day we have people coming in begging for a job.”
In October, Sunshine will open a co-working space next door to the coffee shop to jump-start more businesses in Woodlawn.
Joel Hamernick said the goal is for Sunshine to be working with 200 businesses within three years, with 45 new businesses and 60 jobs created every year.
He admitted it was an ambitious pace, but said as soon as the coffee shop is breaking even, they will start on the next business.
He said next on the list of businesses are a T-shirt company and a property management company.
“We have a runway now that may be long, or it may be short, but it is a starting point,” Hamernick said.
After the co-working space opens, Sunshine will finish renovations on 4,000 square feet of space for its youth services, including new music and dance studios. The new space will allow the after-school programs to expand to 500 students each year from 175.
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