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New Edgewater Cafe’s Owners Plan to Tackle Chicago Youth Unemployment

Helix Cafe will feature food and drink from Halfwit Coffee and the Bagelers

A rendering of Helix Cafe.
Paul Leisen/Leisen Design [Official Rendering]

Coffee, pastries and job training for unemployed youth are all on offer at an upcoming cafe in Edgewater. Helix Cafe, run by co-owners Caitlin Botsios and Sean Connolly, is slated to open April 8 at 6237 N. Clark Street.

Illinois youth (between 16 and 24 years old) are unemployed at a rate of 70 percent, according to research from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a whopping $9.5 billion in Illinois tax dollars are lost due to youth unemployment. Botsios and Connolly said their mission at Helix is two-pronged: “The community needs a high-end café with food and beverage options,” Botsios said. “At the same time, we’re interested in social enterprise and addressing youth unemployment in Chicago.”

The cafe’s extensive training and job support begin before an employee sets foot behind a counter. Skills workshops, classroom based professional development, shift experience, and action plans are just a few components of Helix’s employment arc, which prepares young workers for a future in business or hospitality industries.

The cafe will serve traditional espresso and coffee drinks featuring Chicago’s own Halfwit Coffee, and ownership invested in a highly specialized Black Eagle espresso machine. Connolly said they plan to rotate seasonal specials including Nutella mochas and peanut butter lattes. Tea drinkers will choose from 12 to 15 flavors, courtesy of local purveyors Easthill Tea Co. and Spirit Tea, as well as Milwaukee-based Rishi Tea.

The food menu includes what Connolly described as “traditional cafe fare”: The Bagelers’ bagels for breakfast and lunch sandwiches, Dollop Cafe pastries, breakfast tacos, and an array of sweet and savory bowls with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. The co-owners said they are currently seeking full and part-time applications, as well as young Chicagoans for Helix’s first student-employee cohort.