New Curt’s Cafe location helps at-risk young women and teenage mothers

Billy Kobin, Reporter

A second Curt’s Cafe location opened last week that will focus on providing job training and employment for at-risk young women and teenage mothers.

Curt’s Cafe South, 1813 Dempster St., aims to follow the mission of the original Curt’s Cafe, 2922 Central St., but will focus more specifically on women, according to Susan Trieschmann, executive director and founder of Curt’s Cafe.

“We hope to get all the girls jobs,” said Trieschmann, who added she hopes students will become empowered and “fiscally responsible.”

Trieschmann said about six or seven students are now learning various tasks at Curt’s Cafe South, such as operating a cash register and interacting with customers, with the help of one full-time employee and two volunteers. Before the new location opened March 24, it hosted a “housewarming” party March 22 that many people attended, including Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and several aldermen, Trieschmann said.

Kristen Hemingway, founder of Evanston-based consulting firm Hemingway Strategies, and Nancy Floy, owner of the Heartwood Center, which provides holistic health services in Evanston, started a Kickstarter campaign last summer with the intention of purchasing the property at 1813 Dempster St., which previously housed Perla Cafe.

“This project really touches people’s hearts,” Floy said. “There’s something about the idea of helping these teen moms get job training that really speaks to people. These are our girls. They go to Evanston Township High School around the corner, and it’s our community.”

More than 200 backers donated $51,360 by Aug. 17, 2014, allowing the Dempster Street storefront to be purchased, according to the Kickstarter page. Hemingway and Floy are now trying to raise $150,000 needed to continue renovating and operating the space. Floy said people can donate online by visiting the Curt’s Cafe website.

Johanna Nyden, the city’s economic development division manager, said Curt’s Cafe South will help the business district it is located in.

“We hope that it can drive and attract new customers to the neighborhood and be successful for the years to come,” Nyden said.

Trieschmann said she thinks the new location is doing great after its recent opening.

“We’re really pleased with how it has gone so far,” Trieschmann said. “It’s a community space, so we just want to build a community around the program we have.”

Floy said she will continue to fundraise for the cafe because she can personally relate to its mission. When growing up, she said she experienced poverty, child prostitution and teenage pregnancy.

“In my life, it was a restaurant job that got me off the street, got me to school, got me off of drugs and turned my head around,” Floy said. “I remember being that girl. (The students) told me how grateful they are, how thankful they are, how much they appreciate this chance. Their circumstances will not hold them back.”

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