EDGEWATER — Kate Merrill and Paige Tyler's relationship has changed a lot in the last year: They met, became friends and neighbors, and by the year's end plan to open their first bakery and cafe together.
"We love the neighborhood," Tyler said. "I love that it's single-family homes and lots of kids and people who are very dedicated to the neighborhood and local businesses that are there."
"I kind of think of what Andersonville was several years ago ... and I think Edgewater is kind of on the cusp of that."
Tyler said Monday that if final inspections and licensing go as planned, the pair hope to have Edge of Sweetness open at 6034 N. Broadway before the New Year.
Merrill and Paige have invested about $200,000 of their life savings in the project, and on Friday launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help fill in a $30,000 gap that will cover a final pair of ovens and a cooler/freezer combo. By Tuesday morning, the campaign had surpassed the $7,800 mark.
Part of the 3,200-square-foot cafe will also be shared with six other area chefs who are already signed on to use the location as a shared kitchen, a way for Tyler and Merrill to give back and help fulfill the dreams other other food entrepreneurs, Tyler said.
With the shared kitchen, Tyler said in the future the cafe will hold cooking classes for people of all ages, but will emphasize classes geared toward kids. The cafe will also be available for rent for private use, such as a dinner party, Tyler said.
The co-owners met in a shared kitchen themselves, where Merrill worked on her Kate's Cookies business and Tyler headed her Homemade Sin Bakery.
Under the new Edge of Sweetness brand, the pair will be offering loose leaf teas and organic, single-source coffee available to buy or drink in the 30-seat cafe area. In the summer, Tyler said they hope to open a patio and outdoor seating on the sidewalk.
Their first menu together will be for the upcoming Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays, including pies, bread loaves, cookies, bars, cakes and homemade fudges.
The bakery and cafe came as a surprise to residents this summer when Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) announced the former True Nature Foods building was no longer slated to become a mattress store but Edge of Sweetness instead.
Once Osterman brought the idea of taking over the empty storefront, Tyler said the pair got to work right away, navigating an unfamiliar world of dealing with architects, contractors, city regulations and more.
Together, they not only learned the ins and outs of transforming a storefront, but picked up a jackhammer and sledge hammer and got "down and dirty" themselves.
"We never knew the challenges of being women business owners until we began the process of opening our own brick-and-mortar bakery," the women wrote on their crowdsourcing page. "We were [initially] challenged by the male-dominated field of commercial architecture and construction, until they realized we were tenacious, teachable and willing to roll up our sleeves and do the dirty work."
As "strong women," Merrill and Tyler said they were at first reluctant to ask for help, but were relieved to see that when they did, an "army of assistance" from the community was there for them.
"The neighborhood has just been great," Tyler said. "People are just really reaching out and being helpful in any way they can, which is what we need. I like that because it means they're invested as well."
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