Bronzeville Winery aims to create next generation of local entrepreneurs

The winery expects to open this summer in the 4400 Grove development.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot receives a gift from Bronzeville Winery co-owners Cecilia Cuff (right) and Eric Williams (left)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot receives a gift from Bronzeville Winery co-owners Cecilia Cuff (right) and Eric Williams (left).

Evan F. Moore/Sun-Times

The owners of a South Side winery on schedule to set up shop in Chicago’s “Black Metropolis,” are well aware of what it took to make their dreams a reality.

Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for their Bronzeville Winery, co-owners Eric Williams and Cecilia Cuff said they plan not only to launch a Black-owned business, but also to lift up those around them, creating the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

“This is a project that is for us, by us, and that we want to actually resonate throughout the whole entire world,” said Cuff, who plans to head up a program to recruit entrepreneurs from marginalized communities. “I’m grateful to be a part of writing the next chapter of Bronzeville through Bronzeville Winery.”

The winery is scheduled to open its doors this summer in Bronzeville, one of the city’s historically Black neighborhoods. It was made possible by a grant from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. That fund announced in June 2020 it had shelled out $5.4 million to 32 local businesses in its first round of grants, and a statement on its website says that to date, “the initiative has allocated more than $70 million in public resources into local commercial corridors.”

Bronzeville Winery.

Bronzeville Winery is expected to open this summer in the 4400 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue.

Evan F. Moore/Sun-Times

“I’ve seen the power of small businesses over the last 25 years or so,” said Williams, also the proprietor of Hyde Park’s Silver Room. “People who wouldn’t come to Hyde Park, now come for the block party and for other small businesses.”

The winery is in the 4400 Grove development, in the 4400 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who also attended Wednesday’s festivities, says local banks can do more than produce just-for-show statements she summarizes as: “We love Black and Brown people.”

“Put your money where your mouth is; it’s not enough to have a mission statement,” said Lightfoot, whose administration steered cash from the program that draws money from downtown developers to help neglected entrepreneurs in South and West Side neighborhoods.

“Don’t be a bank for one neighborhood only. Don’t be a bank for a certain class of businesses only — expand your horizon.”

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