UChicago lands Kilwins ice cream and candy shop in Hyde Park

Hyde Park resident Jackie Jackson has signed a lease with the University of Chicago to open a Kilwins ice cream and candy shop just off 53rd Street, at 5226 S. Harper Ave.

Located north of the soon-to-open New 400 Theaters, the 2,315-square-foot store is expected to open this fall. It will become the second Kilwins store for Jackson, who is also the franchise owner of Kilwins Chicago in the Old Town neighborhood.

“As we work to build economic vitality on 53rd Street, we are looking for the right mix of local, regional and national businesses,” said James Hennessy, Director of Commercial Real Estate for UChicago. “Jackie Jackson has a proven track record of success with Kilwins on the city’s North Side, and we are pleased to have her business become a part of Hyde Park.”

Jackson said Kilwins will offer a variety of hand-crafted chocolates, including toffee, caramel and fudge, along with homemade waffle cones, more than 32 ice cream flavors and several other desserts. A new ice cream flavor, Hyde Park Mud — a creamy, vanilla kosher ice cream with caramel swirls and chocolate chips — will be introduced to honor the community, said Jackson.

“I am a lifelong Chicagoan and area resident who is very excited about the revitalization taking place in Hyde Park,” said Jackson. “I am equally impressed with the commitment of the University to work in partnership with a wide variety of stakeholders to make our community an even better place to live.”

Jackson said she also was inspired to open a store in Hyde Park after watching Oprah Winfrey’s “Lifeclass” program on OWN TV.

“I am a huge Oprah fan and viewer of Oprah’s ‘Lifeclass,’ so it was an incredible experience when Oprah Skyped in my store Oct. 28 for an episode on her show,” said Jackson. “Oprah’s classes, fueled by her enthusiasm, motivated me to open a second store when I did not see how it would be possible. Her finale stressed the importance of how ‘You are responsible for your own life.’ That was my ‘ah-ha moment’ to set another goal for 2012.”

Jackson, who recently traveled to Brussels to enhance her expertise in making hand-crafted chocolate, said Kilwins in Hyde Park will continue its tradition of having confections made on a table near a window for customers’ viewing. 

The new Kilwins store will be located near several other new local businesses that the University has brought to 53rd Street. A local independent movie house, New 400 Theaters, will open in late 2012 at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue. The four-screen theater, housed in University-owned buildings, will offer a mix of art, children’s and wide-release films.

Other new local amenities in the hub of commercial activity include Clarke’s 24-hour restaurant, 1447 E. 53rd St., which opened Feb. 13; and Akira, a clothing retailer that is scheduled to open this fall in the former Borders.

These local businesses followed the opening of Five Guys restaurant, which opened last fall at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

“I welcome the opening of Kilwins on 53rd Street,” said Alderman Will Burns. “As a minority- and woman-owned business, Kilwins adds to the diversity of the retailers on 53rd Street. As we move forward with the continued redevelopment of the 53rd Street retail corridor, shops like Ms. Jackson’s, and others, will play an important role in the vitality of Hyde Park.”

The new Akira flagship store will be across the street from Harper Court, a mixed-use development made possible through a partnership between the University and the City of Chicago. Scheduled to open in 2013, Harper Court will have a local Hyatt Place hotel, 75,000 square feet of retail space, an office tower and indoor and underground parking. Additionally, LA Fitness will occupy 31,500 square feet on the third floor with a 1,360-square-foot first-floor lobby.

“After studying the current landscape and its connectivity to 53rd Street, we believe this site will help create the right synergy for Kilwins,” said Hennessy. “We are hoping guests at the new hotel to open across the street, along with other visitors and residents, will enjoy the variety of options for entertainment and restaurants.”

University officials said additional announcements are expected in the coming months.