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Face of the ’Hood: Stephanie Rybandt, Portage Park

Face of the ’Hood: Stephanie Rybandt, Portage Park
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

35, owner of Fannie’s Cafe, Bakery and Boutique

You opened Fannie’s two years ago in Portage Park. How did you decide on that location?

We started six years ago, just doing farmers’ markets, and the very first market we ever did was in Portage Park, because it’s the neighborhood where I grew up. The deal was, I decided, if we sell things then we’ll actually start a business, but if no one buys anything, I’d drop it. We sold out that day, and I was like, “All right, we’re starting a business.”

There seems to be a real grassroots effort to grow new small businesses in Portage Park. How have you seen the neighborhood evolving?

The people in the community are very committed to working together to open small businesses and then support them. So a small business opens up and I see, you know, this moms’ group, or this church group, or some group over here or over there, being like, “Come and support these guys, and we’ll make sure they support you!” I opened my business with no marketing budget whatsoever, but the word-of-mouth power in this neighborhood is crazy. Not only do business owners help each other and cross-promote, but the aldermen are very involved in supporting small business and the residents are too. Everyone’s really invested in what happens around here.

What are some of your favorite places to shop or hang out when you’re off duty?

Simòn Tacos (4263 N Milwaukee Ave; 773-930-3273) has the best tacos in the neighborhood. Josi’s Frozen Yogurt (4032 N Milwaukee Ave; 773-628-7733, josisfrozenyogurt.com) has this buffet of candies and cookies and everything you can imagine to put on your yogurt. And then Filament Theatre (4041 N Milwaukee Ave; 773-270-1660, filamenttheatre.org), just down the street, always has something cool going on.

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