CHICAGO (CBS) — The Heartland Cafe, a Rogers Park staple since 1976, will be closing its doors Monday.
With only a few days left, many are stopping by to have one last meal and say goodbye to the cafe, which has hosted countless families, community members and a few political powerhouses.
It’s the end of an era as the cafe has occupied the space at the corner of Glenwood and Lunt since 1976.
“We opened Aug. 11, had 43 customers,” said Michael James, who co-founded the restaurant and general store with some friends. “We had an idea for community-based institutions that would serve food and have places to meet and do music and educate people to the world, mainly politics.”
“What we intended to do was kind of realized the first three years, honestly,” said co-founder Katy Hogan.
“I have a few fond memories, but I’m going to say when Harold Washington was here two nights before he won the election and then when Obama was here when he ran for the senate,” James said.
Hogan also fondly remembers Harold Washington’s visit.
“As he’s walking in, he could see we had a couple of hundred people here. They’re chanting ‘Harold, Harold.’ He’s like, ‘Where am I?’ And Michael told him, ‘You’re at the Heartland Cafe.’ And he got up on stage and looked around and said, ‘Well, they should call it the Unity Cafe,'” Hogan said.
In 2012 longtime customer Tom Rosenfeld bought the beloved restaurant.
“The community and the cafe have kind of grown up together so it’s a reflection of each other,” he said.
Rosenfeld says it’s just too much financially to keep the cafe going in its current space, so he had to sell the building.
It’s still hard for him and customers to believe its closing.
It’s been 20 years since Carol Giles’ last visit, but hearing it was closing struck her.
“Quite sad,” she said. “And I’ll be waiting to find out where they open up again.”
“This is the first restaurant I came to when I moved to Chicago in 1997,” said customer Rachel Slater. “It was a part of my Chicago experience. I’ll miss it.”
The owner is looking for a new location for the heartland cafe. Customers hope it won’t take long to find one.