Husband and wife duo, Adam and Rebecca Emling, always had the dream of opening their own restaurant, but finding the right time and place was the challenge.
The Bourbonnais couple said they have those issues conquered as they opened Uplifted Bistro, 270 S. Schuyler Ave., Bradley, on May 1.
The 2006 graduates of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, where they were sweethearts, own and operate the restaurant which was most recently the home of the Whisky House.
The approximate 1,700-square-foot establishment is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The location currently has seating for 30, but that will expand once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“We are a small, community-minded shop,” Adam, 33, said. “This has been a dream of ours to have our own business. So far things are going very well. We’ve had lots of positive feedback.”
The location features coffees, smoothies and bubble [or boba] tea. Adam said the bubble tea has been a great success thus far. Bubble tea is a Taiwanese recipe made by blending a team base with milk, fruit and fruit juices, then adding the signature “bubbles,” which are tapioca pearls which sit at the bottom.
The the food side, the location offers sandwiches, pastries and salads. Adam noted his turkey, bacon and cheese sandwich has been quite popular.
The Uplifted Bistro is not the couple’s first venture in to the world of coffee and teas. They operated Divine Coffee Bar in the Northfield Square mall for a short time, but that experience was struck by the COVID pandemic.
“We were doing OK until COVID happened,” he said.
Prior to operating his own businesses, Adam worked in the food and hospitality industry.
The couple sought a location which was far enough away from the chain-style coffee and food shops, but yet close to the center of activity. They believe this location just east of West Broadway Street is perfect.
“I think we are in the heart of a community that is growing and changing,” he said.
The couple also has bigger plans. If this location proves to be successful, they think it can be repeated in other locations.
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Here is a note from the U.S. Department of Labor’s April report regarding employment as it relates to tourism and the coming summer vacation season.
According the report, the leisure and hospitality industry has added 5.4 million jobs over the past year. That figure is very encouraging, but it has a long way to go to get back to pre-COVID levels.
The report noted this sector is still down 2.8 million, or 16.8 percent, jobs since February 2020.
As most people know, the hospitality industry absorbed a massive gut punch when COVID-19 made its presence known, basically shuttering tourism.
But there is hope. The report noted employment at food and drink places is up by 187,000 jobs; amusement, gambling and recreation, up 73,000 jobs; and accommodations, up 54,000 jobs.
Staci Wilken, executive director of the Kankakee County Convention & Tourism organization, said the welcome mat is certainly being put out at the county hopes to welcome visitors back.
“Is it back to normal?” she rhetorically asked. “Certainly not. But we are getting back to the point of safely traveling again.”
She said entities such as restaurants, hotels and other like businesses remain hampered by shortages of workers.
“Staffing is certainly a problem. There are jobs available, but these places can only service people if they have the staff to support them.”
But the good news remains that travel and tourism can again be counted on as a vital economic component.
She said the county’s brand has been decimated in recent months by factors — including, but not limited to the pandemic — and the mission now is to rebuild the brand.
“We are working with every partner and in every community and that will continue,” she said.
Regarding travel, the state of Illinois is launching a new $6-million ad campaign to help drive tourist to Illinois.
The campaign, featured around the theme “Time for Me to Drive,” targets seven surrounding states, encouraging people to take road trips to Chicago and other state destinations.
Prior to COVID, Illinois welcomed more than 120 million visitors annually. Those visitors spent more than $40 billion in the state, according to data cited by the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.