Love and Light Cafe is one of the newest Black-owned businesses to open its doors in Hyde Park. Located at 1429 East Hyde Park Boulevard, the new cafe is less than a block from Kiley Russell’s other new venture — Kemit Academy, a daycare that opened this past summer.
Russell, who lives within walking distance, says that the locations were picked so she can easily be present at both businesses.
“ ‘Love and light’ used to be bonfires that I would do with friends and family at (Promontory) Point. I’ve been doing bonfires at the Point since I was in high school, and so I would call them ‘love and light’ bonfires,” said Russell, explaining how she came up with the name of the cafe.
She first got the idea to open the cafe because she wanted meals prepared a certain way for the daycare. She had grown tired of driving up north for things that she wanted to have, and decided to satisfy that need in her own neighborhood with a cafe that sold the things she likes, including coffee and quick bites to eat.
“It’s very difficult to get that, especially during COVID, so the opportunity to develop this space came up and we jumped on it,” she said.
Russell says that they’ve been working on the space for two years. The pandemic slowed down the opening process, as delays arose related to licensing and contractor work, as well as the supply chain disruptions affecting retailers in Hyde Park and across the country.
“I walked past the space for years. I was like, ‘This really needs to be a cafe,’ ” explained Russell, who said the space was previously a dry cleaner.
Russell says they received around 200 applications for jobs and had to narrow it down to 20 interviews, focusing on hiring people in the community who live within a mile or two of the business.
The vibe is warm and inviting at Love and Light, something people notice as soon as they walk in. Cathy, a shift manager at the cafe, gives everyone a unique experience when they enter, letting them know everything that’s available to them and treating them like family.
“You’d be surprised at how quickly you get to know people coming in every morning, you know? But if you come in every morning for a cup of coffee, why not know that person?”, said Russell.
The menu at Love and Light is diverse includes coffee-related drinks, fresh-pressed juices and cauliflower pizza. The cafe offers salads and sandwiches, switching up classics like sloppy Joes by adding pepper jack cheese. Russell says that soon they will offer brunch as an option.
“We’re small but in our kitchen you know, we can prepare meals. We can turn over pizzas in five minutes. We can do sandwiches and things like chicken wings and all that kind of stuff in under 6 minutes,” said Russell. She says that they are rolling out options slowly to make sure the staff can handle the flow of work before adding new items.
Love and Light is open from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m – 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.