So what is a marshmallow wonderland anyway? It's a colorful magical place we created where marshmallows, coffee, and happiness all come together. But it wasn't always so colorful and cheerful, and it wasn't an easy journey of rainbows and sunshine to get here either.
So in honor of #MarshmallowMonday, we are taking you back to the beginning...when the cafe was an old hair salon (with shady rumors) and we were less than a year old as a company... and along the journey as we turned this creepy little space into a full blown Instagramable wonderland.
Day 1...can we even do this?
We aren't kidding when we say creepy. This is literally what our space looked like on the very first day we ever saw it in January of 2017. Back then it was just an idea. We had no idea if we were ready (although we knew our fans were -- you all had been asking for one for months!), how we were going to fund it, or what it would even look like. In the end, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, and we knew we had to take a leap of faith that we were ready. We both knew we had the drive, passion, and creativity to make it work....but we didn't have the funds. So we put the fate of the cafe's hands into our future Kickstarter backers to make the cafe come to life. And boy did they deliver! We surpassed our goal, and began construction on the space!
And so it begins...
In late April, we started with all of the major construction first (and boy was there a lot). That meant a new HVAC, walls coming down, new electrical and more. Finally we were ready to haul away all of the trash and get down to the bare bones. Keep in mind that when we say "we", we do mean us! We got our hands dirty for months (literally) getting the cafe ready. We hauled away every single piece of trash ourselves, and began the hard work!
After everything was cleared away, we started with the basics...paint! Our space is small, so we went with a soft white color to help make the space look bigger. Bye, bye ketchup and mustard colored walls! From there, it was time to formulate a plan, starting with..."What the heck does a marshmallow wonderland look like?"
Coming up with a plan: aka neon signs and pink seats
Lindzi sat down and began crafting out the space. We knew we had little space to work with, so it was all about maximizing everything, and getting the most out of the square footage. We've never been shy about color (just look at our website!) so we knew we wanted to punch up the space with color! Lindzi also had another goal...make it Instagrammable! As a fashion blogger, Lindzi knew she wanted everything to be picture perfect (literally) down to the neon sign. Above is the first rough draft of the space. Somethings changed "we want s'more" became "i love you s'more", but the core design and colorful elements stayed the same.
Let's get to building: aka make Lindzi's fiancee bust out the power tools
We knew that we were going to have to do a lot of the construction of the cafe ourselves. We were strictly on the budget given to us by our amazing Kickstarter backers, so it was important to roll up our sleeves and to it ourselves! (You might have missed it, but Lindzi's shirt before says #SHIPLAP -- an avid fan of HGTV and all DIY home shows -- this was a dream come true! Luckily Lindzi's fiancee is an engineer and a huge HGTV fan as well, and was happy to bust out his power tools (he pretty much will at any opportunity). Together, the 3 of us built the space out over the course of 2.5 months and countless long nights and hours in the space.
Lindzi and Drew couldn't find the right door they were looking for, so instead they created this 5 panel design from scratch and painted it with XO's signature colors.
There was something so satisfying about the "i love you s'more" sign getting installed. It was this realization that we were close to the finish line! We had an amazing Etsy seller custom make the sign for us. Since we are a small business, we did our best to partner with other small businesses when creating the cafe. The neon sign, custom X & O pillows, and our iconic pink felt board all came from small Etsy sellers.
A wonderland is born!
In the end, we created a space that we are both really proud of. It's a weird feeling going into work everyday knowing that your own hands helped build the space you're standing in. We were very fortunate that we were able to do so much ourselves and so quickly (with the only major issue being our floors -- which took forever and started off as a nightmare of a process!) Now we get to make marshmallows, s'mores, and lots of other amazing marshmallow treats for everyone who walks through that door everyday and it really does feel like a wonderland! We hope you'll come it and see us!
- Lindzi + Kat, co-owners of XO Marshmallow
XO Marshmallow Cafe + Wonderland is located in Chicago, IL at 6977 N. Sheridan Rd, Chicago, 60626