Green Llama Cafe Brings AI Art And Community Workshops To Humboldt Park – Block Club Chicago

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HUMBOLDT PARK — Roses are trying to grow inside a multi-story building at the corner of a highly trafficked Humboldt Park intersection.

The roses are metaphorical but represent the grand visions of The Green Llama Immersive Cafe owners, who opened the business and community space, 3944 W. North Ave., earlier this month.

The Green Llama is a social entrepreneurship program that blends food, art and community. The food and coffee side is helmed by Omar Contreras, who runs Dulce De Leche Cafe and its second location, Dulce De Leche Cafecito, in Albany Park with his family.

The Green Llama menu features a mix of Latin and American dishes like chilaquiles verdes, avocado toast, chia pudding, breakfast tamales and bagels and lox.

The cafe has an “espresso bar with a European twist” and sells coffee from Latin American pueblos with the goal of helping independent coffee farmers be successful, the owners said.

Green Llama Cafe at 3944 W. North Ave. offers coffee from Latin America and a Latin/American fusion menu, like a frittata with potatoes as seen March 6, 2024. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
Green Llama Cafe at 3944 W. North Ave. offers coffee from Latin America and a Latin/American fusion menu, like a bagel with lox, cream cheese, avocados and peppers, as seen March 6, 2024. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

The Green Llama will offer more healthy opportunities through yoga and workforce development programs for children and families, said co-owner Xavier Hernandez.

“We thought this would be a really beautiful way to bring the left and right brain together,” Hernandez said. “The cafe is the ecosystem. … If we start here and there, more will come.”

The cafe and its mission builds off of a classroom curriculum the group created in 2020, called Classroom 2 Table, to assist Humboldt Park-area children by teaching them about entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics through hands-on lessons like how to grow herbs and vegetables from seed using hydroponics.

The program, created by Hernandez and business partner Tony Garritano, was received well by students and families, Hernandez said. Building on that energy, he called on his creative friends to design and publish a children’s book titled “The Green Llama,” which inspired the idea for a cafe that would be an economic hub to better serve the community.

Green Llama Cafe at 3944 W. North Ave. offers coffee from Latin America and a Latin/American fusion menu, as seen March 6, 2024. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

The Green Llama Cafe takes over a former design studio run by Hernandez, who also is the CEO of XD Tech, a technology consulting company that specializes in assisting nonprofits with workforce and community wealth development.

The cafe focuses on hiring and supporting immigrant families. The owners plan to offer workforce and economic development training for neighbors through barista classes, as well as cultural programs and kid-friendly events to encourage art and creativity, they said.

“This team is going to make a big difference in the community,” said Contreras, who is from Mexico. “I really wanted to be part of it.”

In partnership with co-owners Lonnie Edwards and Art De Leon, the cafe sells branded T-shirts for $20-$25, some of which highlight Humboldt Park pride. Proceeds from the T-shirts will go toward the cafe’s programs and employees, Hernandez said.

Xavier Hernandez, a co-owner of Green Llama Cafe at 3944 W. North Ave., shows off one of the shirts for sale at the cafe that showcases Humboldt Park pride, as seen March 6, 2024. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

Edwards, who grew up in Humboldt Park and designed the shirts and artwork inside the cafe, inspired the llama character and wrote the story. The illustrations were made by Hiram “Teel One” Villa.

Known for his intelligence and resourcefulness, the Green Llama character aims to teach students how to approach challenges creatively and critically and is a symbol of acceptance and peace, according to the book and its creators.

“I am so proud and excited about this and what it represents,” Edwards said.

The artist and filmmaker, who lives in Logan Square, also created artificial intelligence designs to overlay much of the artwork inside the cafe, to show customers and kids how technology and art can complement each other, he said.

Though an app called Artivive, work at the cafe comes to life when scanned. The code adds animations that come out of the artwork, like moving butterflies, a spaceship, twinkling stars and more.

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“The augmented reality part is cool because you can extend stories that you already have and what you’re doing now, so it’s really awesome,” Edwards said.

The cafe has two rooms that will serve as play rooms for children, and there is seating in the rear with a large mural designed by local artists. A rooftop patio could come to the space in the future.

The owners are gearing up to release “The Green Llama” in Spanish and publish more stories about the character, Hernandez said. Workshops on yoga, meditation, healthy eating and more will be announced soon, he said.

The owners hope the business and programs will liven up the Humboldt Park corner and create lasting partnerships that will benefit neighbors, they said.

The Green Llama Cafe at 3944 W. North Ave. has fun artwork on the walls and a cut-out of the green llama and his friend, the astronaut. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

“It’s just crazy to think we have a cafe, but that doesn’t happen without [our team]. … This doesn’t happen without Omar, because we’re in tech and we can’t even boil water,” he said. “We knew that the jury, at the end of the day, was going to be witness to this story.

“This area has been decimated, and we felt it would be good to have a rose grow in the concrete, and with it, many others will start arriving, and we could be the catalyst for more businesses [and opportunities]. Instead of eliminating anyone, we want to include them.”

The Green Llama Cafe is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.


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