UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — After coronavirus halted their longtime catering business, a couple who grew up in Wicker Park and West Town have returned to the neighborhood to open a healthy cafe and juice bar.
World Nutrition opened Saturday at 2029 W. Division St, at the Ukrainian Village-Wicker Park border. The cafe replaced a Jimmy John’s.
For owners Eliuth and Omar Guzman, the cafe was a longterm dream realized as well as a necessary financial pivot. Their primary business, Latin Plate Catering & Events, lost the vast majority of its revenue as private events and gatherings were canceled.
“We had to make a decision: What are we going to do financially?” Eliuth Guzman said. “Then we had the idea to build a healthy cafe. … When you have a passion for what you do, it doesn’t feel like a job.”
With a focus on “guilt-free” protein-based snacks, protein-packed coffees and supplement and antioxidant-rich smoothies and teas, World Nutrition fills a gap in the Wicker Park area, Guzman said.
“This is a very vibrant community,” she said. “They take care of themselves. They run, walk, exercise. … [We’re] doing something that’s helping people who are trying to be healthier.”
‘This Is The Only Way To Pay Them Back’
The Guzmans grew up in Wicker Park and West Town in the ’80s and ’90s. They met at Wells Community Academy, where they were high school sweethearts.
Their families immigrated from Mexico to Chicago at a time when the Wicker Park area was home to a large Latino population. Eliuth Guzman’s parents and older siblings worked in factories. Her first job was at the McDonald’s at the corner of Damen and Chicago avenues.
While working at the fast food chain, Guzman told herself she would work hard to create a better life for herself — the life her parents hoped she’d have in America. She graduated with honors from Wells and majored in marketing and communications at Columbia College.
The majority of her career was spent working in sales and marketing at the Chicago Tribune before she opened Latin Plate with her husband, who had a background in the restaurant industry. She juggled her two jobs until deciding to pursue her business full-time.
Last year, the company catered roughly 1,000 corporate lunches weekly. Mayor Lori Lightfoot hired the company to cater her Christmas party.
“My dad decided to come to this country … so many sacrifices,” she said. “This is the only way to pay them back.”
But after the coronavirus pandemic hit, Latin Plate lost the majority of its revenue.
In May, the family was dealt another blow: Eliuth Guzman’s father, who had moved back to Mexico to retire with her mother, died two weeks after undergoing brain surgery.
Though her father did not die from COVID-19, the pandemic prevented Guzman from being able to see him before he died.
The couple knew that if they were going to survive financially, they needed to pivot. They had always dreamed of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant with a focus on nutrition, but the idea had remained on the back burner as they grew Latin Plate.
Though Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village have changed considerably since their childhoods, the couple still love the area and knew that’s where they wanted to open their first restaurant.
The Guzmans signed their lease in August and worked on the space for two months before their grand opening Saturday. Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) assisted in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Guzman, 41, is the first person in her family to start a business. She credited her success to the hard work and sacrifices of her siblings and parents.
Today, the Guzmans live near Midway Airport with their children, 10, 13 and 18. Their oldest is a freshman at DePaul University.
“My biggest accomplishment is seeing my daughter go to DePaul,” Eliuth Guzman said. “I can see my daughter going far, farther that what I’ve done. … Education is the only way for anybody to build their dreams. … It’s the most important thing we can do, people who come from Mexico.”
When she’s not studying, their oldest daughter runs the business’s social media accounts and encourages customers to take photos in front of the cafe’s plant-filled “photo wall,” designed by Little Village florist Jose Gutierrez.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-360-8736.
Latin Plate Catering is still accepting customers interested in pre-packaged meal catering, Guzman said. Those interested can call 708-351-5116, email email@example.com or visit the company’s Facebook page.
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