Tinley Park commuters greeted with coffee, new vendor
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com October 17, 2012 9:50AM
Diana Petrauskis and her mother, Marilyn Costello, smile and laugh with customers as they enjoy their opening day of Diana's Kitchen at the 80th Avenue Metra Station in Tinley Park, Illinois, Wednesday, October 17, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:07PM
Commuters at Tinley Park’s 80th Avenue Metra station were pleasantly surprised to find hot coffee and pastries available for their Wednesday morning ride.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” commuter Deb Keating said as she treated herself to a chocolate chip Danish. “This was promised months ago.”
Since the new station opened in March, with a full kitchen and restaurant seating, the village has envisioned a cafe — and more — here, similar to what is offered at its Oak Park Avenue Metra station.
A pastry shop was expected to open this summer but backed out, village manager Scott Niehaus said. While the village searches for another business, Diana’s Kitchen has temporarily set up shop inside the station for the next 90 days. For starters, it will be open from 5 to 9 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, with plans to expand beyond that.
On Wednesday morning a bubbly Diana Petrauskis chatted with commuters while she served up breakfast wraps, fresh fruit, yogurt, muffins and sweet rolls, along with coffee, tea, juice and energy drinks on her first day. On staff were her parents, friends, employees from her Oak Park Avenue restaurant, and Tom Kokos, who provided the Java Breeze coffee and teas.
“I’m proud to be able to serve Diana’s Kitchen at the Tinley Park Metra station,” Kokos said.
In the near future he plans to offer the “soon to be famous” Trie coffee, a healthy coffee blended with “nature’s secret,” he said.
Given the lack of advance advertising, Petrauskis was pleased with the response from the morning riders, many of whom came in clutching coffee from other shops, but looking over her pastries.
Petrauskis said she is here for “convenience” so commuters no longer have to make that extra stop in the morning.
Tyler Deegan, of Tinley Park, who was on his way to school downtown, stopped to buy a chocolate doughnut.
“This is a good idea, especially since I didn’t eat breakfast this morning,” he said.
Another commuter suggested adding bagels, and Petrauskis readily agreed. She only had a week to prepare for Wednesday’s opening, but plans to expand her menu to include oatmeal, lunches to go, and sandwiches for the return trip in the evening.
“People can call me on their way home and I’ll have their order ready for them when they arrive,” she said. Tables, chairs, couches, a TV and free wi-fi also will be added.
She is bursting with other ideas for this station, where she and the village hope to create a new destination for food and entertainment that serves more than the commuting public.
Now that she has her foot in the train station door, Petrauskis said she plans to apply to be the permanent vendor.
“This place has endless possibilities, if you want to spread your wings and fly,” Petrauskis said. “We want to make this work not just for commuters but for the kids at the (nearby) library and ball fields. I’d like to switch it up on the weekends and offer a Sunday brunch.”
The village is accepting applications from vendors until Nov. 1, but wanted to offer a minimum service to commuters in the meantime.
“Diana has a lot of energy and she’s involved in the community,” said Niehaus, who stopped by on the opening day to make sure all ran smoothly.
“The bread-and-butter business is in the morning, when we have 2,500 commuters. But we want this to be a destination,” he said, adding that it will be a challenge, since the train station — tucked in off of 80th Avenue — has no curb appeal.
In the long term, the village wants a vendor who also can do banquets, weddings, catering and special events — some with a liquor license — such as Halloween parties and open mike nights, Niehaus said.
For now, Petrauskis doesn’t mind being the temporary vendor.
“Why not?” she said. “When I saw how beautiful this building was, it was a no-brainer. I really, really, really hope I get chosen as the permanent vendor.”