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South Side Specialty: Greenline Is Not Your Average High-End Coffee Bar

A nonprofit ministry group operating in a historically low-income neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side is celebrating its biggest development project to date: a for-profit coffee and Belgian pastry shop called Greenline Coffee.

The ribbon was recently cut for the coffee bar at 501 E. 61st St., across the street from the shop’s owner and developer, Sunshine Gospel Ministries, a group working to build businesses, relationships, job training and programming for people in the Woodlawn neighborhood. According to Sunshine, approximately one in five work-age people in Woodlawn are unemployed, not for a lack of desire, but for limited opportunities. Says Sunshine:

The lack of economic infrastructure presents not only a significant challenge to anyone operating a business, but also stifles opportunity for growth.

With the opening of Greenline Coffee, Sunshine hopes to connect not only neighbors, but also local entrepreneurs with a larger network of marketplace professionals, who have more reason to visit than just great coffee. A meeting room graces the coffee shop itself, while a brand new incubator sits right next door, featuring a co-working space as well as several offices for rent.

The shop is mostly manned by graduates of Sunshine’s Summer Jobs program, which connects young job-seekers with training and employment opportunities.

(related: Chicago’s Dark Matter Goes Elemental with New Lake View Bar Osmium)

But this is more than just a community-building effort — it is very much a beautifully designed specialty shop, with dark wood bar surfaces, white wall tiling, floor-to-ceiling windows and a well-defined apple green and ivory color palette. Displayed on wood-framed black chalk boards is a full menu of espresso drinks, teas, bottled drinks and coffee supplied by Chicago’s Bridgeport Coffee. There are also pre-made and scratch sandwiches and pastry, with Belgian sugar waffle as the signature food product.

Sunshine executive director Joel Hamernick, meanwhile is plenty realistic about the odds of success for a specialty coffee shop in any neighborhood, Woodlawn included. In an announcement of the opening, Hamernick says,

I’ll be very frank here. In order for Greenline Coffee to remain in Woodlawn, we need 150 people to walk through our doors every day and spend an average of $5.00. And we will work very hard to be worth the trip. We will continue to feature high quality, locally roasted coffee (shout out to Bridgeport Coffee!!), amazing sugar waffles for breakfast or desert, great sandwiches, an amazing environment befitting any neighborhood in the city. . . but with music and art work that won’t let you forget where you are.

We will work to develop a high quality sought after catering department. We will work hard to develop on online business and other tools that will help yield success. But there will be no success of Greenline Coffee . . . without you, our neighbors.