“We want everyone to feel welcome”

HUMBOLDT PARK – A cafe serving locally made coffee and pastries has joined Humboldt Park Avenue North, taking over the former Be Cafe Kids space.

Etheria Cafe opened Monday at 2800 W. North Ave. Owners Melanie Hoekstra and Kenny Sirovatka hope the brightly decorated cafe, their first small business, will be an oasis amid the pandemic.

“We want it to be a place where you can come and reconnect with people. Everyone I know is going through a very difficult time right now and we need each other. On the contrary, the pandemic has taught me that humans cannot live alone. We’re not doing well,” Hoekstra said.

“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to bring people together and rethink the concept of a cafe.”

Etheria Cafe serves Metropolis coffee, as well as pastries and snacks from local places like La Estrella, La Boulangerie, and Bot Bakery. Finally, the cafe will feature a non-alcoholic beverage menu curated by Sirovatka, a bartender who has worked in Chicago’s bar and restaurant industry for more than 15 years at places like The Publican and Trenchermen.

Alcoholic beverages are not permitted at Etheria, as the cafe has a dedicated children’s play area with 30-foot slides and other equipment, and it operates under a children’s facility license.

Hoekstra, a former Chicago Public Schools substitute teacher, said they have no plans to open a kid-focused cafe. They originally planned to open a women’s sports bar for Chicago Sky and Red Stars fans, Hoekstra said.

But Hoekstra said he embraced the Be Kids Cafe setup, choosing to make Etheria a place both children and adults can enjoy.

“We found this place, and we were like, ‘It’s a different direction, but it’s not completely outside of either of our abilities,'” she said. .

Be Kids Cafe closed at some point during the pandemic after a short time, even after the owners launched a GoFundMe in May 2020 to keep the business afloat.

Hoekstra and Sirovatka covered the walls in coral paint and botanical wallpaper and provided comfortable seating, aiming to create an environment where people of all ages and walks of life can spend hours.

Hoekstra, who is queer, also wants the Etheria Cafe to be a “safe space” for queer people to relax.

“We’re really proud to make this a place for everyone,” she said. “We want everyone to feel welcome here. We want people to come and get really good food, hang out with their friends and meet new people, and reconnect after this incredible atrocity.

The two also hope to regularly rent out the cafe’s private room for “community meetings, weekly Dungeons & Dragons games — really anything,” Sirovatka said.

“We have so many ideas about all the things we can do here and the events we can do, and it’s really nice to be able to put that into action,” Hoekstra said.

Etheria Cafe is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends.

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