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Grandma J's Could Close at End of Year After Months of Repeat Vandalism

By Paul Biasco | December 4, 2015 2:59pm | Updated on December 7, 2015 9:03am
 Grandma J's Local Kitchen might be closing at the end of the year.
Grandma J's Local Kitchen might be closing at the end of the year.
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HUMBOLDT PARK — A Humboldt Park restaurant that's been in the news multiple times this year due to vandalism could be closing at the end of the year.

Grandma J's Local Kitchen, a cozy brunch and lunch spot a stone's throw from the northwest corner of the park, has been in business for 3 1/2 years.

Grandma J's owner, Layla Malia, is a single mom who opened the restaurant on her own in 2010 after working in the service industry and living in the neighborhood for nearly 20 years. She said the vandalism wasn't the reason for the restaurant's dire straits, but rather lack of business.

If things don't turn around before the end of the year, Dec. 31 will likely be the last day in business at 1552 N. Kedzie Ave., she said.

Two of Malia's friends launched a crowdfunding campaign to try to raise $10,000 to help the business survive the winter slow season.

Although Malia admits she "felt a little weird" asking for help to stay in business, she said friends and community members are already stepping up.

"We really hit a slow season, a lot harder than we have had in the past," Malia said. 

Malia, originally from Hawaii, opened the restaurant after becoming a mom so that she could spend as much time with her daughter as possible, according to the crowdfunding website.

She holds kids art classes every Tuesday in the summer at the restaurant and story time brunches on Wednesday, in an effort to build community around the restaurant.

"It's sad because so many businesses are closing down in the neighborhood," Malia said. "When you are a small business there isn't a lot of backup money."

Grandma J's has been broken into three times since it opened.

In June an anonymous message was scrawled on the restaurant's window that read: "Get out of Humboldt Park / Don't gentrify us / We won't be Wicker Park." 

The restaurant was vandalized again later that month when someone threw a brick through Grandma J's window.

Most recently on Nov. 19, vandals once again broke in and stole an antique crash register that had just $1.25 inside.

Malia said that break-in "obviously wasn't helpful," but is not what is leading to the possible closure of the restaurant.

She said the $10,000 would be used for general expenses to keep people employed and keep the restaurant up and running.

"For the first two years we were in a lot of media because of the restaurant, in Chicago Magazine and on Chicago's Best, but for the last year we are in the news because of the break-in and gentrification," Malia said.

Now, it's just about trying to make it.

"I just want people to know how thankful we are for all the support," Malia said.

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