It’s not exactly the kind of business plan they’ll teach at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, but then Brookfield resident Saul Alvarez isn’t looking to be a retail business tycoon.
Far from it, he says. He just wanted to create a place – Ping’s Hideout at 9213 Broadway Ave. – where the kids who congregate in the Eight Corners area could grab a cold drink or a snack and hang out.
“It’s for the kids,” said Alvarez, who has six of his own between the ages of 18 and 4. There are plenty of lounges and cafes in Brookfield for adults, he said, but there’s no place for younger folks to congregate.
As a result, they hang around at the circle or grab a snack from one of the vending machines in nearby businesses.
“I said, ‘That’s not fair.’ I should open something for kids and young adults.”
Ping’s Hideout opened quietly in mid-July. A colorful paper sign with images of a dinosaur and a Transformer hangs in the front window. It’s definitely a low-key affair.
Inside, there are a couple of couches and some plastic tables and chairs. A small counter at the back holds candy and other snacks, while a cooler contains soft drinks. There’s a microwave for kids who want to make popcorn and board games that kids can play.
That’s the concept.
“All these kids don’t know where to go,” said Alvarez. “They go to CVS or the Laundromat or sit around the medians or by the fountain. Instead of doing that, they can socialize over here.”
The idea for Ping’s – the name comes from Alvarez’s nickname for his youngest son, Saul Jr., who walked like a penguin when he was a toddler – coalesced in his mind while he was recovering from his latest bout with cancer of the brain and spine.
Alvarez gets around with the help of a cane and is a little unsteady on his feet. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1997, he said. He’s spent the last four years in and out of the hospital. Before being diagnosed with cancer, Alvarez worked as a medical assistant at St. Anthony Hospital in Chicago.
“Last year I was fighting it big time,” Alvarez said. “It was in March that I decided to say, ‘Go for it.’ My method is, if you’re hungry for it, go for it.”
For now, the business is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
When school starts, the hours will be 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.