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Businesswoman to expand Camille's cafe chain in Chicago area
By Alicia Fabbre | Daily Herald Columnist

Colleen Dermody, a former kindergarten teacher, opened Camille's Sidewalk Cafe in North Aurora. She also owns the spa next door and many other commercial buildings.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/15/2008 12:20 AM

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Colleen Dermody has had her own share of learning experiences over the past 10 years of developing real estate.

While working on her first building, for example, she learned the importance of proper insulation after the water pipes froze. When she bought her next building, she made sure everything was properly insulated.

"I learned a little bit with each project," says the Oswego woman, who initially began investing in real estate as a hobby. "I have that much more experience to draw on for the next project."

Now, the former kindergarten teacher turned real estate developer is conquering new territory as she goes into the restaurant business running Camille's Sidewalk Cafe in North Aurora.

Though part of a national chain, Camille's Sidewalk Cafe is new to the area with the only other suburban store in Rosemont. The chain, which started in 1996, has 100 stores nationwide, including seven in Illinois, according to its Web site.

Dermody opened the restaurant in June and hopes to open additional restaurants in other towns including Plainfield, Yorkville, Oswego and possibly Naperville within the next five years.

"I love the concept," she said of the cafe, which has a motto that says "eat, relax and enjoy."

The restaurant menu includes a variety of items such as sandwiches and wraps served with the cafe's signature salsa and chips, smoothies and bakery items. But Dermody especially is drawn to the relaxed atmosphere for customers, noting some of her customers linger long after their plates are clean to talk with friends or relax.

Though she is focusing on developing restaurants in her territory, which includes Kane, Kendall and DuPage counties, Dermody continues to operate other developments. The North Aurora restaurant, for example, is located next to Salon Spa Suites, also owned by Dermody.

Though not filled yet, Dermody eventually plans to have a full lineup of salon and spa services in the building. It is her second Salon Spa Suites. She opened her first in downtown Oswego two years ago. In both businesses, space is rented to individual hair stylists, massage therapists and estheticians to provide customers a full array of salon and spa services. She hopes the neighboring spa and restaurant will complement each other.

In total, Dermody owns about 20 buildings that house a variety of businesses or professional services, including attorneys, hair stylists, insurance agents and a restaurant.

"Everyday is different," she said. "I like having a different challenge everyday."

Dermody hasn't been afraid to learn the ropes in the restaurant business as she has tackled everything from dealing with vendors to preparing food to delivering catering orders to customers. And like the development business, Dermody had a bit of a learning curve.

"When I first opened I was there 80 hours a week," she said, adding her parents and other family members were in the restaurant during the first several weeks to help her out. "Now I've been able to ease back a bit."

Camille's Sidewalk Cafe is at 1033 Kilberry Lane, near Randall and Orchard roads. The restaurant can be reached by calling (630) 897-9214, or by visiting www.camillescafe.com.