Austin native Victor Delaney is planning to open a Civ’s Corner Cafe coffee shop at 5751 W. Chicago Ave. The news is the latest sign of the corridor’s continued revitalization, said Malcolm Crawford, the executive director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA). 

Delaney originally wanted to open the barber shop, but after getting pushback from other Chicago Avenue business owners who argued that the corridor was already saturated with barber shops, he decided to open a coffee shop instead. 

Delaney said that he wanted to create a community meeting place that would facilitate interactions among residents in the area, particularly as more and more people get vaccinated. He hopes to open the shop by June. 

Since 2013, Crawford has been pushing for redeveloping Chicago Avenue into a Soul City Corridor, a commercial and entertainment district similar to Chinatown and other ethnic areas in the city. 

On March 26, the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals cleared the way for opening of The Bruce restaurant and event space at 5924 W. Chicago Ave. Crawford also touted T&C Fitness Club, which, he said, is opening soon at 5906-10 W. Chicago Ave.

He said that getting coffee shops in the corridor was listed as a major priority in the 2018 Soul City Corridor Commercial Development Study, which was conducted by AAANBA and the Chicago Central Area Committee. 

Austin currently only has one coffeeshop: a Starbucks in Galewood, located at 7112 W. North Ave. In 2019, Austin teacher Latoya Pinson received $29,425.50 from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to open the Lighthouse Cafe at 524 S. Laramie Ave. Pinson has since decided to open in a former corner store at 401 S. Cicero Ave. 

According to the cafe’s Facebook page, the new space is currently undergoing a gut rehab. Delaney grew up in Austin and currently lives on the South Side.

“I have a passion  to be a part of the community where I can be an asset,” he said. “I love to bring happiness to the community, and owning a coffee shop will give people a chance to meet their neighbors.” 

Delaney said the coffee shop will sell coffee, sandwiches, bagels, doughnuts and pastries.

“It’s going to have a friendly environment, where you can come in and relax, read news or whatever,” Delaney said. “It’s going to be a nice, beautiful place.”

Civ’s will have a private meeting room for businesses and community organizations to reserve. Crawford said that he was pleased with the meeting place aspect because it would make the coffee shop “just like a window to the community.” 

Delaney said that he’s been renovating the space since September 2020, but COVID-19 has slowed the process. He said he still tried to put on some initiatives for the community in the meantime, such as giving away children’s toys and book bags. He intends to continue doing giveaways once the coffee shop opens.

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...