Jennifer O’Heir loved traveling to New Orleans during and just after her college years.

“I wanted to bring a little tiny piece of it to wherever I was living,” O’Heir said.

In June, she and a partner opened Nola’s Cup at 800 S. Oak Park Ave., a restaurant and coffee shop that brings some of the N’awlins flavor to South Oak Park.

The word Nola is an acronym for New Orleans, La.

The cafe offers Louisiana favorites such as beignets (powder-sugared doughnuts) and chicory cafe au lait, homemade gumbo, and muffaletta (deli meat with olive spread) sandwiches.

“We plan on in the future to have daily specials that also incorporate New Orleans cuisine,” O’Heir said.

“What we’re really concentrating on is that the ingredients we have are as good as possible,” said Will Spillane of Spillane Realty in Oak Park and co-owner of the restaurant.

The business is a family affair. O’Heir is Spillane’s wife’s cousin, but the two are more like sisters, he said. Brother John Spillane bought the building, rehabbed the residential condos above, and sold the two commercial spaces to the businesses’ owners. Spillane’s wife and his sister-in-law work at the cafe, too.

Spillane grew up on the 700 block of South Wesley Avenue, and remembers using the coin laundry that used to occupy the cafe space. He asked O’Heir after she graduated from DePaul University in 2002 what she wanted to do. The marketing and photography major assumed she’d have to work in an office, but didn’t want to. He offered to be business partners.

O’Heir, 27, is new to the restaurant industry and said running the cafe has been harder than she expected. But having her aunt, Susan Scoville (Spillane’s mother-in-law), manage the kitchen has helped. Scoville’s been a great cook all her life, O’Heir said.

Spillane served as general contractor for the build-out of the space. Turning the building into condos, obtaining permits and the build-out took about 10 months. Former Oak Park Village Trustee Gus Kostopulos served as architect. Completely redesigning the restaurant space, including new electric and heating/cooling systems, cost $200,000.

Nola’s Cup has been busiest during lunch and dinner, but hasn’t had a strong morning crowd yet, O’Heir said, adding that repaving of Oak Park Avenue has likely diverted many commuters’ paths away from the cafe. Business”especially in repeat customers”has grown by word-of-mouth since its soft opening June 3.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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