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Thursday, January 26

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Restaurant Wed Oct 06 2010

Heartland on Life Support

Heartland Cafe - 7000 N Glenwood AveThe Heartland Cafe is in danger of closing if its owners can't raise $50,000 to cover taxes and license fees. As noted in Mary Schmich's column today, the 34-year-old countercultural restaurant, bar, general store and music venue is one of the city's last bastions of hippiedom -- and as such serves as a cultural center for many folks in Rogers Park and Chicagoland at large.

Heartland is offering several incentives to help raise the money, including membership cards that get you a discount on purchases for anywhere from a year to a "lifetime." Read the full announcement after the jump.

Dear Friends of the Café: The Heartland Café has arrived at a crucial fork in the road in terms of our financial survival. A severe cash flow crisis produced by two years of increasing bank charges and overdraft fees has placed us in an ever-deepening hole. Money we need to pay for everyday costs involved in running the Heartland has gone right into the hands of our bank. This bank has hurt more than helped our small business, and will not lend us money.

We need to come up with $50,000 immediately to cover State taxes and the City's two-year licensing fees for food, liquor and outdoor dining for all our venues. We will need another $50,000 to get through the winter of 2010-11. Our long-range goal is to raise a
million dollars to assure that this 34-year-old neighborhood business (and unofficial community center) is around to celebrate its 35th Anniversary in August 2011.

This will include a green roof with a greenhouse to grow herbs and vegetables, patio enclosure and fireplace for the winter, and several other improvements to help us to server you better.

To raise this sort of money we are asking people:

1. Join the Big Heart Challenge, 250 people who donate $200 or more.
2. Offering membership cards that guarantee a discount ($150 gives a discount for a year, $500 for five years, and $1000 gets you a lifetime discount).
3. Seeking financial gifts from those who are able to donate.
4. Seeking long-term, low interest loans.
5. Selling gift certificates (for prepaid food, drink, and store items).
6. Encouraging you to use our catering services and/or to hold your event here.
7. Continue patronizing our wholesome foods restaurant as often as possible, and encourage others to do so, too.

We have taken many steps to improve our operation and our product. In fact, our numbers have improved since 2009; yet remain about 18% down from 2008, when the deep national recession/depression began. The spiraling bank charges ($118,000 in the past 18 months) have taken more than 10% of our monthly income -- the very money that would have enabled us to pay all our bills and keep current with our responsibilities.

Many people love the Heartland Café, and we love being here for you. Born of the social, political, and cultural movements of the 1960's and 70's, "Good Wholesome Food for the Mind and Body" was our mission then, and remains our mission today. What we began then and continue to provide every year since is important to those seeking to improve our lives,our communities, and our world.

The Heartland Café continues to open doors and to support, reinforce, and encourage our friends, neighbors, and all like-minded spirits on the path to build individuals, communities, and a world where we truly share One Heart.

To be open for business next month, and alive and well for our 35th anniversary next summer, we desperately need your help and support right now. We have been here for thousands of people and hundreds of organizations. We need you to be here for us now.

Please contact Katy Hogan and Michael James the Heartland's co-founders and co directors: or
You can call 773 465 8005 (Café)
773-965-8005 (Michael)
773 746 6587 (Katy)

Or simply purchase a 10% membership card of any denomination or a gift certificate at the cashier station.

Please send checks to Heartland Café, 7000 N. Glenwood, Chicago, Il 60626.
Now is the time. Thank you.

Photo courtesy of YoChicago.

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g. / October 6, 2010 3:25 PM

$118k in OD fees is NOT the banks fault. That's called severe financial mismanagement. If you don't have money, don't write the check. End of story.

s / October 6, 2010 4:10 PM

i agree with you G. this is not a bank mistake. when you have 50K needed to cover overdraft or state taxes, that means you totally mismanaged your business. while i do believe heartland cafe is instrumental to the rogers park community, i'm not going to save something that is poorly managed. what says it won't happen again?

bob king / October 6, 2010 4:17 PM

yikes! had no idea it had gotten this serious. It would truly be a shame to lose the characters, spirit, and values emanating from this legendary gathering place.Perhaps new partners, investors, or re-organization could set a new direction while maintaining the idealism and character of the wishes for a positive outcome....we need you folks here in da hood!

Bob King

shechemist / October 6, 2010 5:35 PM

Let them close. I live in the 'hood, went a few times. The food was so-so at best, the service was awful, and the whole place needs a scrubbing. Oh, and now it comes out it is also financially mis-managed.

Why would anyone give money to save this business?

J / October 6, 2010 11:16 PM

I really, really, really wanted to like Heartland Cafe when I first moved here, but my first night two friends and I went in and sat for 15 minutes while five separate employees chatted at the bar and completely ignored us until we finally got up and left. A lot of the reviews of this place seem to say that they're coasting on their reputation, and I was very disappointed to learn that they seemed to be right. I don't want to wish anyone ill will, and successful local businesses are never a bad thing, but delivering poor service and then asking for a bailout to stay open is ridiculous.

mitchie420 / October 10, 2010 11:10 AM

GOOD RIDDANCE this place ugly-fies the corner it continuously looks dirty and unkept up this place should have closed over a decade ago its NOTHING special , it contributes NOTHING to the neighborhood all it attracts are the effete arrogant yuppie snobs who think they're so hip sitting outside on the dirty corner on cheap dirty outdoor furniture and the food really is lousy..good bye and GOODRIDDANCE

michrb52 / October 10, 2010 11:14 AM

Finally this places contibutes NOTHING to the culture (or ambience)of RP or Morse ave in THIS day and age i agree with Mitchie420 Good Riddance

plagam_extremam_infligere / October 10, 2010 11:19 AM

I hope it does close. its an embarassment it never look clean always looks dirty. I would like to see a LOCAL CO-OP open an eatery that reflects the true culture of the area for the MAJORITY of people in our neighborhood, not some throwback whose time was up years ago. a true soul food restaurant would kick butt there for real

Dennis Fritz / October 11, 2010 3:42 PM

There is no doubt the Heartland has been mismanged to some extent; Michael James admitted as much in the Reader article. But I have to wonder how, if the mismanagement were as gross as some people on here suggest, he managed to keep the doors open for over 30 years? Most businesses fail with in the first three years. The Heartland must have been doing at least something right to last over three decades.

Donkeypuncher / October 14, 2010 12:01 AM

The health standards at the Heartland are abysmal and seem to have been that way for a while now. Aside from the public health concerns (cockroaches and the lot) the establishment is a decrepit place that serves bland food. The servers seem to be either stoned or extremely lackadaisical about their tasks, the kitchen staff, that I've encountered, are either missing all their teeth, have sunken in faces or just look like junkies. You would think that a place that has received so much bad press for being unsanitary and undesirable would attempt to appease patrons and be more service orientated and presentable. Ideally, dinner conversation should not be orientated around, 'guess whose plate was created by HIV hands' or 'I think the server drank the water I've been waiting for to clear their pasties before serving that table.' They needed to give people reason to want to frequent their establishment besides unicorn feelings tied to a sense of community. At some point a car becomes a lemon, and at a point after that it is more feasible to chuck the lemon than to keep it operating. They need to stop trying to make lemonade, it'll probably taste like expired Neocitran.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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