If you wandered by 6977 N Sheridan Rd, a storefront bursting with candy-colored balloons would greet you. Upon entering, you may see Kat Connor and Lindzi Shanks demonstrating bona fide teamwork through table assembly.
The scene alone exhibits the “flavor” of XO Marshmallow. Just over a year ago, this two-woman business catered to customers solely through a buzzing virtual presence and the occasional pop-up shop.
Built on selling both lovingly and consciously made bites, Kat’s collegiate brainchild married with Lindzi’s vibrant marketing sparked sensation. Everything from booze-infused marshmallows to mug topping “mars’halos” flew off cyber shelves. The whimsy and collaboration-driven identity that reimagined marshmallows was destined to outgrow its online store. And it did.
After earning RedEye’s 2016 Big Idea Award in the fall, demand for the gourmet marshmallows increased and holiday orders snowballed. This and Kat’s conversion of her kitchen into makeshift sleeping quarters expedited their 5-year plan and search for a physical “Wonderland” to sell treats. All it took was a sprinkle of fate and Kat’s dad, owner of neighboring Midnight Mac and Cheeserie and Nibbles and Nosh.
XO Marshmallow Cafe & Wonderland will adjoin the late night Mac spot, and all three businesses will share a kitchen. The cooking area co-op further proves that intermingling fuels XO Marshmallow recipes and company values. Other than customizable comfort food next door, what can visitors expect?
Kat and Lindzi envision a dreamy yet modern space with seating for 16 featuring a full-service espresso bar, s’mores station, and to-go boxes of online favorites. Think modern tea time or coffee hour with a wash of sugary colors and “XO” pillows. Can you feel the love yet? Homemade salted caramel sauce, cocoa mixes, and signature fluff plus an assortment of toppings for custom ‘mallow creations will enhance affection.
While kids enjoy preservative free marshmallow pops, moms and dads can sample something stronger. Friends can Instagram the neon-lit “I love you s’more” sign while sipping toasted marshmallow lattes or frozen drinks. Gifters can choose playfully packaged sets for birthdays and bachelorette parties. First timers can purchase the classic, spongy confections or opt for more progressive offerings like taco s’mores and lavender white hot chocolate.
The “Lady Bosses” hope this idea of a new nostalgia attracts the mix of families, young professionals, beach goers, commuters, and students that represents Rogers Park. After all, an eclectic neighborhood deserves palate-pushing goods and a cozy location to taste them.
XO Marshmallow continues to rank community as a vital ingredient to any growing business. Already smitten consumers and the “tuned in” of Chicago’s far north community have responded enthusiastically to the upcoming opening, but what about the food community? Are Kat and Lindzi wary of the cutthroat kitchen stereotype?
Not exactly. XO Marshmallow’s journey actually suggests nothing but positivity and an “all for one” attitude. Partnering with Glazed & Infused, Koval Distillery, and possibly a friend’s gluten-free cookie company, the pair sticks to their roots. Networking and bolstering other creators’ visions make the marshmallow world go ’round.
Does the team have any entrepreneurial advice? Of course, they do. Lindzi stresses passion. Like what you’re doing, and know your brand. Kat adds that working with what you know yet staying open offers you the world.
Well said, darling. You can take on “their” world and all its sweet (and savory?) inhabitants this June.