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Chef, Hopeful Vendor Suggests 'Sweet' Idea for 80th Avenue Metra Station

Village officials are narrowing the search for a vendor at the 80th Avenue Metra Station. A business owner presented her proposal before two committees Tuesday, saying she wants to make the stop a destination, rather than a mere commuter checkpoint.

After several months of extended application deadlines and back-and-forth discussions with potential restauranteurs, village officials may be zeroing in on their choice for a vendor at the .

Nicole Betourney, owner and executive chef for Palos Heights-based business, Isn't That Sweet, presented her plan for the space Tuesday night during a joint meeting of the 's Budget, Audit and Administration, and the Finance and Economic Development committees.

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The station's building is fully functional but has lacked a vendor since the end of its first construction phase in March. The 5,600-square-foot structure replaced a tiny 1,400-square-foot shelter that was built in 1978. An official grand opening for the site, including a unveiling of a sunken garden, pedestrian underpass and , is scheduled for November.

Betourney said everything about the location is ideal for her "destination station" vision.

"I've always wanted a place that had a city feel to it," she said Tuesday. "This is perfect. It's in a small town, and feels urban but not pretentious."

Betourney's brainchild is "bringing Paris to the suburbs," she said. The classically trained chef specializes in French pastries and opened her business in 2007, she said.

She envisions a special tax-included menu that will cater to on-the-move commuters. That menu includes iced coffee, hot coffee, bottled water or juice and a monthly lunch special. Iced coffee is priced at $3.50, fresh-brewed coffee, $2, and bottled water and juice, $3, according to a business proposal Betourney submitted. Bottled teas for $5 a piece are also on the docket.

Betourney said she's arranged a tentative agreement with a Frankfort-based caterer who will provide cold sandwiches, salads and other meal items that can be served hot, if necessary. The 25-year caterer, who she said preferred to remain anonymous pending approval of her proposal, could also offer large-scale meals for special events.

"This place is such an exciting place and it really has the potential to get people of all types to come here to Tinley Park," Betourney said, of the station.

She said hours for her cafe would be from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a "skeleton crew" working between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and a full staff ready for the morning and evening rushes. On Saturdays and Sundays, she thinks the space should be open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

She discussed partnerships with the and , which neighbor the site, as well as an involved marketing outreach plan.

Trustee David Seaman, who is also the chairman of the finance committee, applauded Betourney's ideas, calling them unique and "quirky."

"I think it's a realistic plan in terms of a startup," he said, noting that Betourney was conservative with revenue estimates and staffing plans for the site, as well as ready and willing to alter her menu at any time based on its success. "I think the uniqueness would work well out here. Turning it into a destination has some potential."

Trustee and Committeeman Brian Maher, was a bit more critical, though he stressed that he wasn't calling the notion a "bad idea."

"I don't think what she's proposing is bad," he said. "I just think she's being a little too optimistic in terms of how successful she's going to be. She's relying on higher end sales than she's going to see."

Betourney's cupcakes are priced at around $2 a piece. She said her specialty multi-layered mousse cakes are made one layer at a time—a baking process that she insists is rare in Chicago and especially, its suburbs. They are categorized in a "swanky sweets" section of her menu and range in price from $28 to $70 each. Mini versions of the cakes are also offered, along with truffles, candies and caramel toffee. 

Commuter specials range in price from $7 to $15, according to a proposed menu. The $7 option consists of a bottled water or juice and the option of a fresh baked croissant, pan au chocolate or muffin. The $15 "lunch rush" choice includes a bottled water or tea paired with a fresh-made salad or sandwich and a cupcake. 

She brought samples of her sea salt and caramel cupcakes, as well as a variety of Macaroons for the two committees on Tuesday.

"People are coming in and out of the city twice a day," Betourney said. "They're seeing all these great places in Chicago but they don't have that at their home. My goal is to make this not just a commuter stop, but a destination."

The Isn't That Sweet cafe proposal must first be recommended by commiteemen and women before moving onto the full board for approval.

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Eileen July 11, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Are those prices a little steep, or am I completely out of touch?
mr.joe July 11, 2012 at 01:16 PM
at those prices the place will be gone in 12 months.
Carrie Frillman July 11, 2012 at 01:50 PM
The prices were Trustee Brian Maher's primary concern, too. Other officials responded by saying Betourney is flexible and open to changing aspects of her business plan. They claim that in the menu, the prices include the cost of the ingredients and a 30 percent markup, which they said was "standard" in the food business.
Charity Lynch July 11, 2012 at 02:55 PM
As a customer who has actually sampled many of Ms. Betourney's offerings I can assure the public that whatever price is being charged the offerings from Isn't That Sweet are well worth the cost. The skill and ingredients used to make these desserts are not something to be found at the local grocery or big box store. And, since Ms. Betourney is "flexible and open to changing aspects of her business plan," I believe the pricing to be a non-issue and Isn't That Sweet will be a feather in the cap of the 80th Avenue Metra Station. Remember, you get what you pay for and Ms. Betourney's desserts are well worth it.
Jessica July 11, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I like the concepts..but 15.00 for a lunch is a little crazy for a salad or sandwich that comes with a cupcake and water/tea....i can feed my who family for 15.00 from wendys or mcdonalds..obviously its not the same but you see what im saying...
Abbie July 11, 2012 at 03:36 PM
As a fellow customer of Isn't That Sweet, I second Ms. Lynch's sentiments. Ms. Betourney's attention to flavors and details is not found in the suburbs. The 80th Avenue Metra Station will be a better place with Isn't That Sweet as a part of it!
Aireen Arellano July 11, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I'll gladly pay for fresh ingredients, quality care, and expert craft from a small business owner who comes in to work day in and day out doing what she loves and serving the hard-working commuters of Tinley Park. Cheers to you, Nicole Betourney! I'll be fully supporting you and your business. I can't wait to try your cupcakes (which I believe are a standard price for your average delicious cupcake)!
Bob BrandNew Kelsey July 11, 2012 at 06:45 PM
The price points she is trying to meet and become successful with can be met in Tinley Park, we aren't pretentious, but we aren't orland hills either
Susan P. July 11, 2012 at 07:49 PM
What a wonderful idea to showcase Tinley Park! I live in the City, but I can't wait to check out this "destination station" and visit Isn't That Sweet!
Vicki July 11, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I think the prices are too high. They may be "worth" the price but no way would I pay that. I like starbucks Carmel macchiato's but I can't justify paying the price and I really like em. I could drink one of those everyday but probably grt them maybe 2x a tear if even that. Between my train ticket, park fee, coffee, lunch it would cost me too much to go to work. I hope she does well though.
Mary Carumba July 12, 2012 at 10:44 AM
At those prices this place won't last long.
Mary Carumba July 12, 2012 at 10:46 AM
You can go to Dunkin Donuts at 171st on your way to the train and get everything there including breakfast for a fraction of the price this so called chef is going to charge!
Paulie Gualtieri July 12, 2012 at 03:12 PM
I think that it is going to be difficult for any vendor to attract any customers outside of the people who are there to catch the morning train. The station has limited visibility from 80th Avenue and has zero foot traffic outside of people catching the train, so it is going to be pretty difficult to maintain a business with the hours that have been proposed. The only way that I would consider running a business out of that train station would be if the rent was free and the village provided some type of electronic signage for my business on 80th Avenue. I don't see many people in Tinley Park paying two bucks for a cup of coffee and three bucks for a bottle of water. Tinley should have skipped the full kitchen and given commuters some more places to sit. The building is 5600 square feet, but the usable space is maybe half that amount at most.
Patricia July 12, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I love the passion that Chef Nicole Betourney has in pleasing her patrons not only with her delightful desserts, but also with making them feel she is their own personal Chef! Chef Betourney will be an asset to to the 80Th Station..this Cafe' will be what the commuters will want to start and end their day with.."Isn't that Sweet"... Chef Betourneys is lovely to work with, her desserts are not only delicious but a masterpiece...Yes once you have experienced Chef Betourney's pastries, cupcakes, truffles, or sea salt caramels...you may think compared to the" beyond you wildest dreams" taste ...it must be too expensive. Well no! Chef Betourney prices are comparatively correct with Bakeries and local Cafes. Love the idea..let's do it!
Dan OBrien July 12, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I have tried Chef Nicole's products and was very happy with them. I am a blue collar worker on a tight budget, after trying her cupcakes I would pay her prices. Her red velvet cupcakes are much better than any chain donut shop product. With the attention to detail and the love that is put into her product, I am sure everyone will be very happy with the new business. Good luck Nicole...
NCall July 12, 2012 at 07:21 PM
@ Mary Carumba - FYI she is not a so called chef, she "IS" a chef and an excellent one
mr.joe July 12, 2012 at 08:05 PM
if chef nicoles products are so good i say open the coffee shop in one of the vacant buildings in tinley park. there must be over 100. why do the train station when you can get a spot with hundreds and hundreds of cars a day going by. another thought -whats the rent going to be? most strip malls are a couple grand a month.i wonder what the village fathers are going to charge for rent.
Gina C July 12, 2012 at 08:21 PM
If you Google Mary Carumba's name..you will see she is a troll who constantly posts negative posts on several city's Patch articles...time to get a life!
Gail July 12, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Are the trustees familiar with the French Market at Union Station? I realize Union Station is a hub for several train lines,so the foot traffic is huge. I think Nicole has a great idea, much needed in the southwest suburbs. Her plan to offer a balance of quick, high quality options for commuters to grab before boarding the train, as well as, a destination for area residents to visit for a french pastry and drink is terrific. I think Tinley Park could be on the cutting edge of something really great, they need to raise the bar for the area.
Marjorie Laws July 13, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I am a customer of Chef Betourney. Her delectable cupcakes are the best I've ever had. I think that her ideas and concepts for the metra station are outstanding and very much needed. I cannot wait to go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Katherine Buck July 13, 2012 at 03:04 AM
I'm another customer of Chef Nicole Betourney, and the Tinley Park train station's patrons would be lucky to have such a hard-working entrepreneur offering delicious food. I'm surprised by all the negativity given that a muffin and latte at a chain costs $6. A business like Ms. Betourney is proposing will help make Tinley Park unique. Plus, her desserts are fantastic.
Ronald Holmberg July 29, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Gail is absolutely right. A local sit-down/meeting place to conduct business or simply to socialize and enjoy a coffee and higher-end pastry would be a great thing for the area. Anyone who wants to go to Dunkin or McD's can. For me, I'd actually like something a little more substantial than a drive-thru...I like to get out of my car once and a while and be able to enjoy something other than mass-produced clone food. Chef Nicole's idea would be a great addition to the community...R Holmberg,TP

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