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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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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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