Family Owned Coffee Shop Roaster’s Opens In Downtown Park Forest With Fresh Baked Goods And Handmade Drinks

Savannah Johnson, a 22-year-old Park Forest resident, has always loved to bake. Her sister, Nia, also a of Park Forest and a year older, has worked several jobs as a barista. Both grew up making each other a variety of breakfast sandwiches to enjoy on the way to school.

So opening a breakfast and coffee spot where the two can excerise their skills professionally has always been their dream, albeit far-fetched.

Then, in August, their mother, Gale Snead-Hart, did something shocking.

“Just one random day, she was just like ‘Let me take you by the shop.’ And I was like ‘What shop?’” Savannah Johnson recalled. “And she just pulled up here.”

For several months, Snead-Hart, who works for the Illinois Department of Human Services, and her business partner and co-investor Ken Curry, talked with their families about their plans to open a breakfast joint. Savannah and Nia, along with Ken’s daughter Arriane, began planning a menu and marketing strategy. But the kids thought for sure Snead-Hart and Curry would turn the store over to outside employees once it became a reality.

“She thought she was just helping, being an aid,” Snead-Hart said of her daughter Savannah, who is now the store manager, fulfilling a lifelong goal to run her own business. Arriane is working the marketing side of the business.

Aside from a few doughnuts, all the baked goods at Roaster’s Savory Tasting, 319 Main St., in downtown Park Forest, are homemade, either by a Savannah, an in-house chef or a baker who runs the locally owned bakery Cookies and Conversations. All of the breakfast sandwiches, lunch plates, smoothie bowls and drinks are also all made by hand and made to order.

“We want people to start the day off in a good mood,” said Savannah, who quit her Amazon warehouse job to work at the store. “None of our food is premade. We take time to put it together. We make it with care.”

Savannah’s favorite item is one of the breakfast sliders or the avocado toast.

Roaster’s Savory Tasting specializes in breakfast sandwiches like this order of sausage and bacon breakfast sliders. (Hank Sanders/Daily Southtown)

As the store began to close at 3:30 Oct. 11, a man walked in and said he wanted another cookie. As he approached the counter, Savannah told him the cookie was on the house.

She explained that while she didn’t know him, he had just bought a bunch of sandwiches and she wanted to thank him for his order.

Roaster’s, a family owned, Black-owned and women-run business, will have its grand opening Oct. 21. Its hours will be 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Being a barista here is exciting because I am coming up with my own ways of doing my drinks,” said Nia, who still works as a nurse on the side. “The creativity in me is coming out.”

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She recommends the mint lemonade and the blended coffee drinks, called frappes.

While Curry and Snead-Hart will work at the store weekends and outside of their day jobs, the three daughters run the place.

“We all have a part,” Snead-Hart said. “We all pool together and try to make it work.”

Roaster’s opened for three days recently as part of a soft launch.

“We’re learning a lot of new things and we’re also teaching each other a lot of new things,” Nia said. “It’s super exciting.”

The sisters say business was good to start, but look forward to the real deal Oct. 21.

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