The restaurant associated with Two Sisters Catering, 4800 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago, quietly closed for business this summer. As she clears out the restaurant her business called home for more than a year, owner Veah Larde is reflecting on the reasons behind the decision to shutter her carryout restaurant and contemplating plans for the future.
The cost of doing business in the current climate proved to be too great a burden for the establishment known for churning out healthy versions of soul food classics on the Soul City Corridor. Larde found herself “pilfering her own finances” to make ends meet and decided in August that she would need to close the restaurant.
“This situation is not unique to me,” said Larde. “I was facing the same issues that every restaurant and every catering company have been facing for the last few years.”
Rising food costs played a key role in Larde’s decision to close the restaurant. She tinkered with the menu trying to figure out what she could offer that would be appealing to her customers without bankrupting the business. She reduced the amount of meat she offered, turned her focus to vegetarian entrees and eliminated her fish offerings altogether.
“I used to offer fish twice a week, but the price got so high that I took it off,” said Larde. “I had to lose my fish crowd. That was a bitter pill to swallow because I had customers that like to eat certain foods on certain days.”
When soaring prices of butter and eggs began impacting the baking side of her business and slow foot traffic at the restaurant forced her to reduce her staff, Larde started to re-evaluate her business model. She founded Two Sisters in 2012 as a catering company and never intended to have a restaurant. She grew into a confident business owner after finding her way to the West Side’s Hatchery food incubator in 2018 and gained the respect of her community when she became a vendor at Austin’s weekly farmers market. The storefront fell into her lap and as hard as she tried to make the brick-and-mortar thrive she had to admit, after looking at the numbers, that catering orders and her savings were keeping the doors open. The restaurant couldn’t sustain itself and something had to change.
“My heart hurts for my elderly customers who would come in and buy three meals at a time from me,” said Larde. “They know they can still find me at the farmers market, but that part of closing was sad. They are like family to me.”
Larde opted to close the restaurant in favor of making catering her top priority once again and will return her homebase to The Hatchery. She has established a relationship with Marla’s Lunch which works to partner up with small businesses to provide hot lunches in schools without cafeteria staff. Two Sisters is currently assigned to Providence St. Mel’s in East Garfield Park and St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest. Larde is eager to expand this sort of consistent catering and will consider small to mid-sized private events for clients that understand the Two Sisters culture.
“Two Sisters has always been about offering amazing health-conscious food for the southern food enthusiast,” said Larde. “And it still is. Southern food can be healthy, and you can still have room for that snack or treat.”
Additionally, the entrepreneur is exploring an e-commerce option for her popular baked and expansion opportunities for her savory menu offerings into commercial grocery stores as part her participation in 37 Oaks University, a commerce development and learning lab for entrepreneurs.
“I am not sad,” said Larde. “I am in a good place. You have to keep your head on a swivel in this business but I think pauses like this happen so you can get things right.”