Courtesy of Gabrielle J. Walker
When 4 Suns Fresh Juice owner Gabrielle J. Walker tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of the new year — just a month after its grand opening — the store temporarily shut down.
But community members immediately rallied behind the vegan smoothie and juice bar, sending Walker and her family personal messages, delivering food to their home and contributing to a GoFundMe posted on the business’ Facebook page last week.
“The first month open was everything we hoped for,” Walker said. “Nothing negative, it’s just been pure love.”
Community members donated enough to meet 50 percent of Walker’s goal mark, which is set at $10,000, in about a day, which she said was “mind blowing” and an affirmation that her customers’ support extends beyond “just empty words.”
Walker also said she believes her business, which is located in the 2nd Ward, is especially important as COVID-19 continues to take its toll on Evanston’s Black community.
“People are really concerned about their health right now, as they should be,” Walker said. “Looking at the Black community, and seeing the ailments that are specific to my community, like diabetes, hypertension, obesity…I just wanted more of our people to know that there are options that are healthful and tasty.”
Walker said she hopes 4 Suns will reopen in a few weeks. Because of the community’s support, she has been able to pay the business’ bills and retain her employees.
Olu Logan, Walker’s son, works at 4 Suns and has recommended many of his friends for jobs at the juice bar as well. The Evanston Township High School senior said helping run his family’s business has been a learning experience.
“I want to be an entrepreneur myself, so (the) best part is getting to see what that’s like and getting a taste of it at my age, and also getting to work with my peers,” Logan said.
Elisa Walker-Laude, who is also a senior at ETHS, said working at 4 Suns has inspired her and her fellow employees, who want to own small businesses.
Many of the restaurant’s patrons are Walker-Laude’s friends and peers. Because COVID-19 restrictions have barred students from in-person learning at ETHS, she said working at 4 Suns is a way to connect with people she might not have seen otherwise.
“It’s really cool because most of the workers grew up in Evanston, so we know a lot of people in the town. They’ll come in the store, and it’s like a little reunion,” Walker-Laude said. “We’re just really excited to get it back open, back up and running, and use this time to rethink everything…and just come back better.”
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