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Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Muslim businesses open in downtown Skokie due to owner partnership

James R Prizant
The opening of The Hijab Vault and Sweet Reserve Bakery highlight the friendly inner workings of local business around Chicago

Two new businesses have opened on Oakton street in downtown Skokie: a Muslim boutique called The Hijab Vault and a halal bakery named Sweet Reserve Bakery. They opened, one next to the other, on May 4 and 10 respectively. Though seemingly by coincidence that these two neighboring Muslim businesses opened within a week of each other, these grand openings have a story based in friendship and mutual support in small, local business.

One will find these two locations so close together, not just in downtown Skokie, but in eastern Lombard, IL as well where the first of these two locations reside. The Hijab Vault’s owner, Juwairayah Kholwadia, was looking to bring her business further North as it had gained some online popularity, specifically from their Instagram page. People were coming in to buy scarves and accessories from cities and villages both in, around, and North of Skokie, making a long trek for such a specific, though necessary shopping spree. To fix this problem, Kholwadia went up to Skokie, looking for more brick and mortar so her customers wouldn’t have to drive so far.

The inside of The Hijab Vault showcases a varying tapestry hijabs and hijab adjacent products. (James R Prizant)

“I was looking for a second location… just on Oakton street, because I heard of Complimentary Café,” Kholwadia said. “That’s when I called up [one of] Sweet Reserve [Bakery’s owners] and I said, ‘there’s a spot next door, are you guys open to branching out on the North side?’ And she said, ‘Yeah!’ She actually ended up signing the lease a week before me, and we’ve just been working towards getting the space ready, and then finally… we opened The Hijab Vault.”

Uniquely, The Hijab Vault is a business that specializes only in hijabs–a type of hair-covering head scarf for Muslim women–with only a couple deviations that include hijab accessories and prayer kits. This location is exceptionally “the only hijab-only store in the Chicagoland area,” according to Kholwadia. The boutique offers innumerable options of colors and fabrics for hijabs, selling “…over 99 styles and all of the styles have at least over 10 shades/colors.”

Just next door is Sweet Reserve Bakery, a confectionery with a myriad of desserts ranging from crème brûlée, gluten free cookies, eclairs, to even cake in a cup, all halal and ready to go once ordered. They also sell coffee and savory foods like salads, sandwiches, and other bread based products. The co-owners, Humera Rauf and Sumaiya Vahora, were also looking to expand their business due to their popularity in more Northern communities; when the Skokie location opened, there was a line of people stretching to the Eurostyle Deli at the end of the block. The call Rauf and Vahora received from Kholwadia was the perfect opportunity to get the confectionery its second official location.

Sweet Reserve Bakery is still filled with customers after more than two hours into opening, showcasing its popularity.

“We decided to open in Skokie because we were approached by The Hijab Vault, when they told us that this location was an existing coffee shop and was already [permanently] closed,” Rauf said. “We have a very large following on the North side, preexisting from our Instagram page. We wanted to come here, but we were already focusing elsewhere because of not finding a good location. So, when we did find this location, we decided to go ahead.”

Sweet Reserve Bakery is the definition of accommodating, homemade baking; all of their products are made in-house, from scratch, with no artificial ingredients, no pre-made ingredients, no preservatives, and no shortenings–fats like lard or margarine. The goals of the co-owners regarding their business’ profits are also charitable, with Rauf saying, “As both of us are educators, once we are successful as a business, we would like to take our funds to contribute and give back to the community.” The owners are also looking forward to the opening of two more locations: “The second [new location] is coming within the next six weeks in Schaumburg, and the third one will be coming [to] the city of Winfield by the end of this year,” according to Rauf.

Not only have these two businesses opened with real success, a third Muslim business, also from the same street in Lombard, will be opening over the summer.

“Next door to us is Slyce of NY.” Rauf said. “It serves New York style pizza by the slice, chicken over rice, and whole pizzas, obviously. They will be coming… here.”

Unnoticeable to the average customer, these new locals have used their professional camaraderie to support and expand both eachother’s and their own respective businesses, all part of the same, vibrant culture. Given the large success of these businesses’ Skokie locations, and their collective decisions to expand here in general, it seems Skokie’s accepting nature has stayed true and will continue to in years to come. After all, “Skokie welcomes everyone.”

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About the Contributor
James R Prizant
James R Prizant, Asst. People Editor
James "Jimmy" Ryan Prizant is a junior at Niles North. In his free time he enjoys bowling, scrolling and chatting through socials, and listening to '80s music on Spotify. He one day hopes to have a job relating to mental health, writing, or bowling.

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