U of C negotiates with the Medici to open new bakery

By Benjamin Hellwege

The gap left on 57th Street by the closing of Stay Up Forever may soon be filled. Owners of the Medici Restaurant on 57th Street are negotiating with the University’s Real Estate Operations to open a European-style bakery.

“We hope to be able to open the bakery in late January or early February next year,” said Kirsten Schley, general manager of the Medici. “We are going to offer something the neighborhood lacks — high-quality, artisan-style breads.”

The address, 1331 East 57th Street, has had a string of short-lived businesses. According to Ilene Reizner, director of Real Estate Operations, the University owns the building, and past tenants of the space included Fundamentals, a clothing store. “Fundamentals was followed by ClothesOuts, also a clothing store, which was operated by the same owners as Fundamentals,” Reizner said. “Then, most recently, Stay Up Forever was there.”

Stay Up Forever (SU4) was conceived and executed by fourth-year student Carver Tate, whose father was the primary investor in SU4. “I got the idea my first year because there was nowhere to study, other than libraries, or hang out late at night,” Tate said in the October 2000 University of Chicago Magazine.

“In the beginning, SU4 appeared to be a success. Quite a few students patronized the shop, probably because of the novelty of the place,” said Aaron Saxe, a former employee and a fourth-year at the U of C. Unfortunately, the magic wore off and SU4 began to falter. “The customer base shifted away from students to the chess players — Hyde Park residents who met at SU4 to play for hours. Also, homeless people started to crash there and the products weren’t that good.”

Because the building is located in a busy section of Hyde Park, the struggling of businesses seems odd. “While 57th and Kenwood is a wonderful location, it’s not prime for all types of retail due to the lack of parking,” Reizner said. “That was a contributing factor to the failures of the clothing stores. With Stay Up Forever, perhaps a more seasoned and experienced owner / operating staff may have had a different result. Often the success of a business has more to do with being in the right location at the right time than anything else.”

However, before all this can come to fruition, an agreement must be made between the Medici and the University. “We are currently negotiating with the owners of the Medici to lease the vacant space to them for a bread bakery and pastry shop,” Reizner said.

A longtime fixture on 57th Street, the Medici may offer the kind of experienced management that this troubled location would need. When the bakery opens, it will also draw upon the University community. “Our baker is a U of C alumna named Lauren Bushnell, who concentrated in math, I believe,” said Schley.

The Medici currently offers some pastry desserts, but does not have a very extensive menu of either cakes or pies. “The bakery will allow us to expand our offering of pastries. We plan on offering cakes and pies,” said Schley. “We are also hoping to provide cooking classes.”