What's In Store

Celebrating Selmarie

Celebrating Selmarie

This weekend we say goodbye to the beloved Café Selmarie at 4729 N. Lincoln Ave in Chicago as co-founder Birgit Kobayashi retires after 40 years in business.  For ENJOY’s founder, Rebecca Wood, it is bittersweet (not unlike the chocolate in her daughter's favorite Café Selmarie treat—the croissants).

We asked Rebecca to reflect on ENJOY being Café Selmarie's Lincoln Square neighbor for nearly 20 years.

"When I moved from Boston to Chicago in the early 2000’s, I lived near Lincoln Square and would often walk up and down Lincoln Avenue. There was something about the neighborhood and the 4700 block of North Lincoln Avenue, in particular, that fascinated me—the Huettenbar, The Book Cellar, Merz Apothecary, the Chicago Brauhaus, The Chopping Block and Café Selmarie—they were some of the amazing small businesses that all seemed to just “fit together.” The neighborhood felt like a family, a village in the middle of this big, new city that I was getting to know. I knew I wanted to open a store in a neighborhood in Chicago. I soon realized Lincoln Square was exactly the neighborhood I’d been looking for.

In 2005, while in Lincoln Square (probably at the Huettenbar), I saw the space next to Café Selmarie—the former Hansa Travel Bureau at 4727 N. Lincoln—had opened up for rent and knew that was it! That was where I should open ENJOY. It was the perfect location on the block, on the sunny side of the street and next door to Café Selmarie—the anchor of the block and the neighborhood.

The first people to welcome me to the neighborhood were Jeanne Uzdawanis and Birgit Kobayashi, the co-owners of Café Selmarie. I knew I had made the right decision when I saw the excitement on their faces for a new business opening up next door. I knew I had fellow business owners there for me just on the other side of the wall that ENJOY (literally) shared with Café Selmarie. In fact, it was so close that I could recognize who was working by how hard they banged to empty the portafilter of the espresso machine (the first in the neighborhood!) of the spent grounds.

Jeanne would come in every day when I was ENJOY’s first and only employee. She would have to make “bank runs” and would stop in to buy a pair of earrings. Birgit would pop in other times to buy cards and other items. I think they were making sure I felt welcomed and supported and filled me in on all the neighborhood scoop.

As ENJOY nears our 19-year anniversary, I can point to three main business role models in my life. My grandmother who owned her own jewelry business in Vermont—working her way up from shop clerk to buying the store, on her feet every day—taught me that hard work can make your dreams come true. My parents, who opened their first seasonal gift store on Cape Cod during their summer breaks as teachers when I was eight years old, taught me how to foster my entrepreneurial side (even as a side hustle) and to always look for ways to make the most out of everything. And Jeanne and Birgit, who taught me about community, friendship and commitment to each other through everything—and how to navigate the strange, wonderful and sometimes perplexing challenge of operating a business in Chicago. 

Lincoln Square welcomed me into the family 20 years ago, and the neighborhood is now home. I am now proudly part of the tradition of family and community that I will carry on with my own kids. Fast forward 20 years and I have had countless breakfasts with my own children and parents on Selmarie’s Giddings Plaza patio, watching Connie work beside her mother, Birgit, guiding Café Selmarie to their 40 year anniversary and, now, Birgit’s much deserved retirement.

Birgit has said, “After cooking and baking for decades, it is time to sit down. I want to travel with my husband and have time to indulge in other interests.” 

So, Café Selmarie will close but this Lincoln Square icon will live on in our fond memories. We are grateful for the inspiration and support. And, of course, the amazing baked goods and food.

Birgit, I hope you get a chance to sit down and enjoy every aspect of retirement. Thank you for fostering (and feeding) a community for over forty years."

Birgit and Jeanne of Cafe Selmarie

Birgit Kobayashi and Jeanne Uzdawanis
Photo: Café Selmarie

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoConnie Kobayashi and Birgit Kobayashi