clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Don’s Snack Attack aims to provide a ‘little bit of lightness’ at the courthouse

Video by Ashlee Rezin | Don Bell, 59, who runs Don's Snack Attack in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, sells chips,

The man who runs the concession stand that occupies about 400 square feet in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse refrigerates two Mr. Goodbar chocolate bars every day for a certain judge.

Don Bell, who is visually impaired, runs Don’s Snack Attack concession stand “from top to bottom,” selling chips, cookies, coffee, soda, candy and more in the lobby of the courthouse at 2650 S. California Ave. through assistance from the state’s Business Enterprise Program for the Blind. He’s worked with the program — which touts more than 90 entrepreneurs operating small businesses, earning on average more than $40,000 a year — since the 1980s, and ran the concession stand at the county courthouse in Skokie for five years before relocating to Leighton nearly two years ago.

He was born with achromatopsia, which causes color blindness and light sensitivity.

Bell is an avid cycler but takes public transportation or Pace’s paratransit service from his home in Rogers Park to the courthouse, opening Don’s by 7 a.m. every day. The stand closes at 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 2 p.m. on Fridays. He has one employee, Daphne, who is also visually impaired. She works about four hours every week and is training through the BEP to eventually run her own small business.

“This program is essential for anybody who has any kind of visual impairment who doesn’t think that they can do this kind of job or any job, really,” said the 59-year-old Bell. “They provide training for individuals like myself to be able to step to a higher level than they would have ordinarily.”

He leases the concession space from the county, while the BEP provided the equipment and initial inventory to get set up. The program also provides business consultants for additional support and increasing sales.

The pastries, such as fruit pies and honeybuns, are Bell’s favorite snack, while the items that sell the most are water, chips and coffee.

“A lot of the people tell me that they enjoy coming to the stand because I provide a little bit of lightness to an otherwise not so favorable condition. You know this is the county courthouse,” said Bell, a father of two with a 5-year-old grandson.

When asked whether he hears a lot of gossip from around the courthouse — he chats for a second with almost everyone who visits his stand — Bell laughed, “I don’t know everything, but I do know a lot.” He’ll set candy and snacks aside for his regular customers, adding that “this is just, you know, small potatoes in the scheme of things, but good customer service is what I stand on, really.”

“They can come here, and If I can give them a smile or help them to have a little bit more favorable outlook on the day, then I’m providing a pretty good service,” he said.

He said his motto is “the relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction,” which was depicted by Bell’s artist brother in the Don’s Snack Attack logo, a smiling shark holding a soda and bag of chips, wearing sunglasses like Bell’s.

“Some people, if they’re having a bad day they’re just having a bad day, you know, but for the most part I try to, you know, provide a little levity,” he said. “That’s important for me.”

Bell is seeking approval to open a Starbucks coffee kiosk before the end of the year, located outside Don’s Snack Attack, to “provide some quality gourmet coffee for a lot of the people who come here and work here.”