Former Kafein owner leaves fond memories

Irene Sics, former Kafein owner, died Thursday. She was 45 years old.

Source: Jean Demas

Irene Sics, former Kafein owner, died Thursday. She was 45 years old.

Jia You, City Editor

Communication freshman Grace Hahn remembers meeting new friends at Kafein in the beginning of Fall Quarter, chatting and laughing as they slouched on the comfy couches and sipped coffee. The vintage cafe, 1621 Chicago Ave., became a regular hangout for her, and she went there as often as three times a week to see friends, do homework or just take a break.

“If I have a free day, I’ll just go there a to chill a little bit,” Hahn said. “The place is really unique in itself. It’s a relaxed environment.”

Irene Sics, the owner who brought Kafein to Northwestern students and Evanston residents 21 years ago, died from ovarian cancer last week. She was 45.

Family members and customers attended her funeral Monday at the Schram Memorial Chapel in Glenview.

Growing up in Lincolnwood, Sics attended NU’s National High School Institute for film, radio and television as a high school junior before pursuing a film major at the University of Southern California. In college, Sics served as a Cherubs instructor every summer, said Jean Demas, her mother.

In 1992, after graduating from college, Sics returned to Evanston to open Kafein.

“She realized there was something in Chicago that was missing, and that was a nice place for students to go, feel comfortable, and enjoy drinks and a good time without liquor,” Demas said. “And that’s what she put together.”

The cafe, which stayed open past midnight to offer humorous menu items and renaissance-style art, became popular among students and Evanston residents.

Demas, who has personally visited the cafe many times, said her favorites were the wall paintings, including one of God handing Adam a cup of Kafein coffee and another of Mona Lisa sipping expresso with a mysterious smile.

“She always had a wonderful sense of humor,” Demas said. “She was very beautiful both inside and outside.”

Sic’s friends and former customers left pages of notes on a memorial website built by her husband John.

“I must have spent hundreds of visits working on my writing there, studying or reading,” wrote Evanston resident Denise Roma, who called herself a “long-time” Kafein customer.

“When Irene or Jean were there, the visit was all the better,” Roma wrote.

In addition to her mother and her husband, Sics is survived by her brother Thomas Dallianis, her sister-in-law Marcy Oke and nephews Andrew and Nathan Oke.