Curt’s Cafe, a financially struggling program designed to train youthful ex-offenders for food service careers, will ask Evanston aldermen for over $30,000 in funding tonight.

The cafe, at 2922 Central St., was opened in April by Susan Trieschmann, who owns the building, but has yet to receive approval of its request for non-profit 501(c)3 status from the Internal Revenue Service.

In October, Treishmann, who for 25 years was a partner in a Lincolnwood catering business, requested $50,000 in aid from the city, saying the cafe had over $30,000 in unpaid bills and needed more than $16,000 to build out its kitchen to be able to prepare food on site.

Most of the unpaid bills were for rent owed Trieschmann, who says she’s cut the rent on the space so it only covers her taxes on the property.

County records show the building, which also includes another storefront, has more than $17,000 in unpaid property taxes.

While members of the city’s Economic Development Committee recommended that the city provide support, members also expressed concerns about the shaky financial status of the operation and the decision to open before getting non-profit status, which has hampered fundraising efforts.

The funding proposal developed by city staff calls for loaning the program $9,095 to help fund the kitchen buildout and authorizing $21,332 in grants to provide training to at least four Evanston residents who are unemployed young adult ex-offenders.

The grant would expand on an existing career pathways program operated by the Youth Job Center of Evanston.

Trieschmann says she developed her interest in opening the cafe through her activities with restorative justice programs in Evanston, where young offenders frequently said they could stay out of trouble if they had a job, but their lack of career skills made it difficult for them to find one.

She says that in just over six months Curt’s Cafe has “trained three students who have gone on to get jobs with Starbucks, Eco Cleaners and Food for Thought Catering.”

In addition, she says, one student was able to enroll in Oakton Community College.

But she says that without an emergency infusion of capital, the cafe is likely to have to close by the end of the year.

Top: At work at Curt’s Cafe.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Kickstarter

    This is a good cause. I just don't think the City should keep on giving money away to every business that asks for it. Or if it is going to cherry-pick whichs ones to support, then they ought to release criteria for how they determine which businesses get funds and which don't. This is true if you submit a grant application, why not for City funds?

    Frankly, I think Curt's Cafe should do a Kickstarter campaign instead. This is a good cause and there are deep pockets in our community. Let's let the community choose which ventures to support instead of letting our alderman decide which businesses to support with our money.

    1. This sounds like a good

      This sounds like a good alternative for the short run and I agree that there should be a better system for distributing city funds, especially when we are told the city is so short of them.

    2. Kickstart Curt’s Cafe

      Kickstarter would be perfect. This would give the trainees at Curt's a much needed oportunity to learn not just how to slice a bagel and brew coffee, but would teach them the even more important business skills. They would have to write a business plan and do the math. Learn marketing skills and social media. It would push their experience to a whole other level.And give them the skills that employers actually look for. If some ETHS students can raise money to start their own t-shirt business on Kickstarter then Curt's should have no problem making a case for their funding. I would contribute to that. 

  2. Is this an investment, or charity?

    What is the return on investment here?  $30,000 to train three kids so they can gain entry level employment sounds like a rather expensive training program.

  3. Owner has gone the extra mile

    I'm not familiar with the details of Curt's, but it seems that Susan Trieschmann has gone the extra mile in serving struggling youth in our community and this benefits the community as a whole. She is providing a service that one might expect the city to spearhead. There should be a positive outcome for the financial issues Curt's is facing. Not many would ever consider taking on such a project.

  4. Should not have started before getting charitable tax status

    I have been into Curt's cafe and while I think it is a good idea, it was irresponsible to start it before gaining 501c3 status.  The city should not be bailing this project out when there are so very many worthy non-profits and projects in this town that do not get aid from the city.  Perhaps the founders should consider partnering with an existing agency.  The other thing, is that the location does not lend itself to attracting very much foot traffic.  The two or three times I have been there, there are very few people. 

  5. More money to follow

    The idea of providing funds to an organization that begins operations before it has received non profit status should be a non starter, and perhaps a kick starter.  It is not good business sense to do anything before proper accreditation has been accomplished.  I sure hope the City Council boots the idea of handing over $30,000, and more to come, you can be sure.  $30,000 for three jobs.  Really?

  6. Give Curt’s the money

    Giving money to Curt's is not an investment. It will not bring in more money to Evanston. It won't help bring in more businesses to Central Street.

    It will give youth a means to a better life.   This is exactly the kind of program a city taxes should support, in my opinion.

    How about ending the facade improvement campaign, loans to businesses, and one million dollar economic development budget- none of which actually have any long term data to support that they actually are profitable  "investments" anyway. 

    Instead, let's put our tax money back into resources that actually help people improve their lives- whether it be on-the-job training like this, indoor sports fields, libraries, or park district improvements?

    I think what Susan Trieschmann is doing is nothing short of heroic. 

    At a minimum, how about at least letting this woman off the hook for the $17,000 in property taxes until she gets the non-for profit status.  




  7. Bail Out

    This City just backed the loan for the wine bar on Howard. Now a private business owner that wants city money to pay off debt. Typical. The city needs to divorce itself from private business, not be its crutch. I know that this is an insane thought for a resident of the People's Republic of Evanston.

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