Photo by Joe Boyle
Members of the Veal family (from left, back row), Daniel, Bill (front row) Billy and Maria prepare to close Little Something Extra Café in Oak Lawn for the day on Saturday. Another member of the Veal household, daughter Alex, 21, also helps out when she is not away at school.
By Joe Boyle
A new bakery in Oak Lawn has provided something a little extra since it opened this summer.
And the inspiration behind a Little Something Extra Café, 4616 W. 103rd St., is Billy Veal, 18, who is often seen daily and on the weekends at the new bakery. He often helps with the preparation of the food and helps to keep the bakery clean.
Billy is the son of Bill and Maria Veal, the owners of the café and longtime Oak Lawn residents. The Veals were told several hours after Billy was born that he had Down Syndrome. Initially devastated, the Veals soon had a change of heart due to Billy’s enthusiasm and cheerful personality.
“He used to want to help me cook and bake when he was very young,” recalled Maria Veal during a conversation Saturday at the bakery. “He was interested in cooking and baking at an early age and just enjoys this.”
Bill and Maria Veal both attended DePaul University and earned business degrees. They both met at DePaul, fell in love and married. Maria grew up in Chicago’s Canaryville neighborhood while Bill was from Queens, N.Y. The couple also have a daughter, Alex, 21, who is majoring in marketing at DePaul, and Daniel, 15, a freshman at Brother Rice High School.
After settling in Oak Lawn, the Veals continued working in the corporate world while caring for Billy, who attended several schools in the area and eventually graduated from Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School in Oak Lawn.
“Everybody was just so amazing there,” Maria said. “The kids were also so great. They treated Billy just like anybody else.”
Billy attended Richards High School in Oak Lawn, where he also was treated well. While at Richards, he learned more about cooking through culinary classes. He began to receive further instruction from the District 218 Adult Transition Program. Richards is in School District 218.
But while Billy was flourishing at Richards, the Veals were concerned about his future.
“But what are we going to do when he turns 21? We want Billy to become a part of the community,” Bill Veal said.
And then the idea of owning and operating a bakery with Billy in mind became a reality. Maria Veal said it took nearly two years to go through the process of finding a location and applying for permits. The bakery officially opened on July 3.
“The village manager, Larry Deetjen, was very helpful,” Maria said. “The mayor (Sandra Bury) also had kind words. We wanted this place for Billy. And we also wanted a place that was unique; people can come here and feel comfortable.”
The Veals said that business has picked up as word has spread about the bakery. Maria said that staff at the Mercy Circle retirement facility near Mother McAuley High School brought along residents to visit and dine at the bakery.
The other unique aspect of the bakery and café is that the Veals also employ other individuals with special needs. The Veals have partnered with the District 218 Adult Transition Program and encourage young adults with disabilities to work at the bakery. A friend of Billy’s, Jenna Richards, also works there. Several other employees with special needs also work at Little Something Extra.
Maria left the corporate world to work at the bakery full-time. Bill Veal can be found behind the counter on weekend taking orders and assisting in other areas. Daniel also helps with maintenance. Alex, when she is home from school, assists at the bakery and helps to spread the word about the shop through her marketing lessons.
Little Something Extra is also unique, Maria said, because people can actually sit down at the bakery and dine. They will also be served fresh coffee.
“We have people of all ages coming in from mothers with toddlers and college kids with their laptops,” Maria said. “There is nothing like this in Oak Lawn. We have bakeries but not where you can sit down. You can also come in here and have a cappuccino.”
Little Something is currently celebrating their grand opening, which has been marked with two weeks of activities and specials. Customers will receive a discount today (Thursday, Sept. 13) for National Peanut Day with a peanut butter cookie. A special price on a 16-ounce tea will take place on Friday, Sept. 14; beignets on Saturday, Sept. 15; and $1 brownies on Sunday, Sept, 16, which concludes the grand opening events. Along with doughnuts, pies and muffins, the bakery also offers a variety of food and sandwiches.
But Maria said that Billy is the star at the bakery. He also has a sandwich named after him -- Billy’s Breakfast Sandwich. She added that Billy had learned a lot through the District 218 Adult Transition Program, where a buddy system allows for mentors to work with kids who have special needs in mock grocery stores, taking orders and even folding towels and opening and closing boxes, which many kids with special needs need guidance with.
“He helps here every day and he wants to do this,” Maria said. “He is so persistent. He will clear tables and help clean up. He also helps to make eggs in the morning. But what is really great is that it makes him feel good. This is something he can do.”
The bakery is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, The shop is closed on Tuesdays. The bakery is also open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. They can be reached on Facebook or by calling (708) 552-6882.