“I moved here from San Diego, and I’ve been in Chicago for about 14 years. I graduated and earned my master’s in finance and accounting from Roosevelt University. I love Chicago and I really wanted to be immersed in the city.”

“I found a job as an analyst at a logistics company located within the Sears Tower. I worked there a couple years before transitioning to another company in the finance field. After eight or nine years, the company went through a restructuring, and I realized that I wasn’t really inspired by the industry or my work.”

“I really wanted to return to my passion, which is cooking and food. So, in 2016 I went to Kendall College culinary school. I worked full time while also studying, and eventually left the field of finance when I finished school.”

“I worked in the restaurant industry for a couple years, but it wasn’t enough. I knew I needed to start my own business. I had built up enough courage and confidence in my ability to create what I wanted, so I wrote a business plan from scratch.”

“I started my American Dream. I wrote my own plan, presented it to the bank, and I was able to secure a small business loan. I put all my savings in the business. We started construction July 2019 and opened Jan. 1.”

“I own the Grail Café; our slogan is ‘where goodness can be found’. The ‘goodness’ is the community. Our mission and vision have always been to have a place you come in and you’re able to let down some of those barriers we put up in the world. And you can leave refreshed, hopefully to continue spreading light and love into the world.”

“Even in this odd, terrible, challenging learning process we’re going through, that’s still our mission.”

“I didn’t realize how much I would learn about the Chicago and Illinois Way”.

“I am very much an optimistic person, to a fault some would say. I always believed people and the government aspire to the common good and to help those in need. People take that at face value, but it’s very shocking to find out that is not the case.”

“I was not prepared to play this ‘Game of Thrones’ type of process for assistance.”

“That’s frustrating for a new business coming in. Here we are trying to just start our business, make a living, add to the community in a positive way. We have no idea that there are all of these other factors going on which work counter to what we’re trying to do.”

“When you apply for [a Small Business Administration] loan, you know exactly how much money you have from Day 1. That money doesn’t include provision for a pandemic.”

“So, when March 15 rolls around and indoor dining is shut down, your profits fall by 50 to 75% of what you were projecting, but you still have rent, employees, vendor costs, etc.”

“It’s devastating.”

“People push back and say, ‘Well doesn’t the government have PPP and all this other money for business?’”

“Yes, but we’re not Boeing or Chase. We don’t say, ‘Hey, we need aid,’ and receive it the next day, or within a couple days or a week. We file the applications and then it’s a waiting game.”

“You know how infuriating it was to have an issue as large as this pandemic and have no one see you?”

“You feel invisible.”

“While we’re waiting for relief to come, we fall farther and farther in debt. So, by the time relief comes, we might just, hopefully, maybe, get out of the hole.”

“I have not been happy with how the city has handled things. I don’t see this mayor at all, and it bothers me as a constituent.”

“I’m close to downtown and City Hall. I feel like there’s a lack of heart that has come down from the city.”

“The mayor is sitting on $1 million in her escrow account for an election that’s two years away. Meanwhile, we’re down here suffering, and we can’t even get a $5,000 or $10,000 grant to keep our business alive.”

“These are the little things I think the public doesn’t see or doesn’t care about. It’s very difficult for us small businesses to be vulnerable and lower the veil about what we continue to go through.”

“Lightfoot says, ‘We’re all in this together.’ But we’re not.”

Sheldrick Holmes
Grail Café owner
Chicago, Illinois