CHICAGO (CBS) — Each week on our streaming-only newscast we’re aiming to highlight a local food or beverage business with a unique story.
In this week’s spotlight, CBS 2’s Audrina Bigos takes us to a vegan-only bakery in Old Town.
Walk Down North Avenue in Old Town and you’ll find a small, quaint bakery serving up lots of sweets – but there’s no eggs, milk, or butter.
“I believe I can veganize anything you put in front of me.”
And we have no doubt about that.
Cheryl Nelson owns Sweet Vegan Bakes – celebrating one year in business.
“Sweet Vegan Bakes is my baby. It was born out of a necessity for me to have something really good to eat that was vegan.”
That necessity started about 17 years ago when Cheryl shifted to a vegan lifestyle.
“I was really, really sick back then, I had all kind of health issues,” Cheryl said. ” I actually tried to get some life insurance one day I got denied for that. The guy called me fat and said I was too heavy, had too many health issues so I went vegan that day, cold turkey, no pun intended, I lost, listen to this, 118 pounds in 72 days.”
That weight loss journey eventually led Cheryl to leave her job as a professor and VP of a health care organization to become a full-time Vegan Chef and entrepreneur.
“I became a vegan chef because I was out trying to find great vegan food, and they had great vegan food but they didn’t have what I like to eat so I had to create what I wanted right, so I saw the need and I began to create,” she said.
And it’s not just cupcakes and cookies here – Sweet Vegan Bakes has a full food menu too!
Everything from plant-based chick-n wraps to crab cake wraps, and even chick-n waffles. Whatever she’s making, the key for Cheryl is maintaining the flavor.
“Our customers are saying this is so moist, it’s so delicious, this is the best vegan cake I’ve ever had, or is this really vegan? Are you sure there’s no meat in here? Are you sure this is vegan cheese? So, we’re getting those kinds of reactions and what we love is we’re getting return customers coming back so that makes us happy.”
When they support this business, they also support the community. A portion of all sales is donated to local organizations and charities.
“We want to embed ourself into the community, so we want people to see us as a community partner rather than just a black-owned business so support us yes because we’re black-owned but support us because we’re embedded into the community and your dollars that you spend here get shipped back into the community through various charities that we donate to,” Cheryl said.
Mission-based and forward-focused.
“We’re going to do some great things coming up here in the near future. We want to do something that’s more of a sit-down, more of a sit-down restaurant, so we can have more people into the building and we’re gonna have the best vegan brunch you have ever seen honey.”
That new brunch spot Cheryl mentioned is expected to open sometime next year in Richton Park.