Sweets at the station?
By Matthew Bruce Correspondent July 12, 2012 6:54PM
Tinley Park officials are considering allowing a Palos Heights caterer, Isn't That Sweet, to open a coffee shop inside the new 80th Avenue Metra station. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 14, 2012 6:27AM
There may be more than train smoke brewing at the 80th Avenue Metra station soon.
Piping hot cups of coffee and gourmet treats could be pulling into the newly rebuilt train stop to accommodate Tinley Park’s morning and afternoon commuters.
Tinley is eyeing a local baker to take over the cafe, which sits unused inside the 5,600-square-foot building on the south side of the tracks.
Village officials Tuesday met with Nicole Betourney, owner and executive chef of Isn’t That Sweet, to discuss the Palos Heights-based dessert caterer’s proposal to bring its menu to the 80th Avenue site.
Isn’t That Sweet would offer $2 cups of coffee, $3 bottled juices and waters and $1-$3 cupcakes and pastries, according to a price list Betourney presented during a village board finance committee meeting. Betourney said the shop also would be able to serve commuters salads as well as hot and cold sandwiches, which would be provided through a tentative agreement she has with another caterer. The plan also would include a host of specialty desserts and handmade treats.
“I think the uniqueness of what she’s talking about is going to work out there with that crowd,” Trustee David Seaman said. “When you start to see the enthusiasm, and you start to see the potential that it has — along with the broader offerings that would be there — I think it would work.”
The move could finally bring someone in to whip up orders for coffee and doughnuts at the station, which is coming off an $11 million upgrade. Tinley officials expected to have a vendor in place earlier this year, but low interest from caterers forced the village off its May deadline. The station reopened in March, and the cafe has sat unused since then.
Despite searching for months, the village has yet to find a vendor it feels can satisfy the shop’s overall potential. Tinley envisions a cafe that will serve more than just coffee and doughnuts to commuters on the morning rush. The eatery is complete with a full kitchen and housed in a luxurious building that is nearly twice the size of the downtown Metra station on Oak Park Avenue. Village officials contend the restaurant can attract some lunch and dinner traffic and could even be an option to host weekend activities such as baby showers.
The 80th Avenue stop is one of the busiest on Metra’s Rock Island line, serving about 2,500 commuters each day. Some village officials questioned whether Isn’t That Sweet’s higher-priced proposed specialty items would sell at a train station market. Trustee Greg Hannon was more concerned with how much estimated profit is expected to be made from commuters versus noncommuters at the site.
“I don’t necessarily care what she’s serving, and I don’t necessarily care, at this point, what she’s charging,” Hannon said. “People will buy a product if it’s good. But what I do care is if she’s planning for 20 percent on commuters and 80 percent on cupcakes, I think there’s some concern.”
The village now will need to sort out details of a two-year licensing agreement that allows the proposed vendor to use the space before it leaves the committee level. Village officials expect the measure to reach the full village board by early September.