Lauren Duquette/The Daily Northwestern
Tomate Fresh Kitchen is about to get a little bit fresher.
The restaurant, located at 914 Noyes St., received a $10,000 loan from the student organization Lending for Evanston and Northwestern Development to buy new refrigerators and expand work space with the hopes of growing business in the NU community. The loan is the second-largest ever given by LEND.
Owner Tania Ruiz said the biggest challenge Tomate faced was a lack of adequate storage space for food. In addition to new refrigerators, the money will also allow Tomate to renovate a garage behind the restaurant to better hold supplies.
Expanded storage also means more room for food preparation, which Ruiz said is currently limited to an 8-foot table. Ruiz wants to expand business to better serve one of her primary customer bases: NU students.
“We need that space,” she said. “We are looking to cater more toward Northwestern.”
Tomate has had a long-standing relationship with LEND, dating back to when the organization started helping Tomate with business development about two years ago, LEND co-president Weinberg senior Vickie Chi said. LEND helped develop Tomate’s delivery system and also assisted with the restaurant’s social media presence.
And when Ruiz needed money to expand, LEND was happy to help.
“Tomate has a good operating history,” Chi said. “It made sense for us to give her the full fee.”
The size of the loan was facilitated by a partnership LEND has with local bank First Bank & Trust. LEND co-president and Weinberg senior Vashnav Pandey said First Bank & Trust uses LEND to connect with smaller clients the bank wouldn’t loan to otherwise.
First Bank & Trust provided a $10,000 fund to LEND to match loans given by the organization and also has a member on the LEND board of directors to help advise and educate LEND.
Pandey said the Tomate loan couldn’t have happened without the support of First Bank & Trust, with the bank providing $3,000 toward the loan from its fund. He also added that the loan to Tomate was encouraged by a similar loan to C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, located at 1901 Church St. C&W used the money to add a deli counter to better serve Evanston Township High School students and the surrounding community.
Beyond the size of the loan, the deal with Tomate also represents a geographic milestone for LEND. The restaurant is the first business LEND has worked with that directly serves Northwestern students on a daily basis.
“Someone so close to the school, it means a lot to us,” Pandey said. “It makes it all the better that we stop by a lot.”