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Homewood brewpub will honor Juice WRLD and the community that nurtured him

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Carmela Wallace described her time in south suburban Homewood as special for her and her son Jarad Anthony Higgins, better known to millions as rapper-singer Juice WRLD.

Higgins was happy there, Wallace said, and really cherished his time at Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School, where he established himself as a talented musician.

“He enjoyed the high school, he was in band, he had friends, it was like a hometown, it was really special for him,” said Wallace, who added that she worked hard to buy a home there. “It made me happy to be able to give him that for his teenage years. He always came back to Homewood.”

A superstar in the making, Higgins died six days after turning 21 in 2019. On Friday, Wallace will kick off construction of a brewpub in the suburb on her son’s birthday to honor his memory and give back to the community that she said gave them so much.

A rendering of what Homewood Brewing Company, 18225 Dixie Highway, will look like when it’s completed.

Linden Group Architects/Village of Homewood

Wallace and village officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday at the corner of Dixie Highway and Miller Court for the business, dubbed Homewood Brewing Company. The 18,000-plus-square-foot building will feature green spaces, outdoor seating, an event space and game area.

Homewood Village President Rich Hofeld told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that he was excited for the brewery and what it will bring to the village, and said the building “is going to be very, very nice” and will feature a rooftop garden.

“It will be very complementary to what we have now.”

The location also has significance for Wallace, as it’s where her favorite restaurant, Bogart’s Charhouse, once stood. The land has been vacant since the restaurant closed a few years ago, and Wallace said the village sold her the property for a dollar.

Juice WRLD performs onstage during the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival and Daytime Stage at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds in Las Vegas.

Juice Wrld performs onstage during the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival and Daytime Stage at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on September 21, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

Wallace hopes the brewery can help catapult other local artists to the heights reached by her son. Local artists will be able to showcase their work at the brewery, Wallace said, adding that Corey Pane, who painted a mural memorializing Juice WRLD in Chicago, will create another mural outside the brewery.

“We want to provide opportunities for people that they may not have had, to get some recognition,” Wallace said.

The brewery will also create jobs for the area, Wallace said, and allow her nonprofit, Live Free 999, which she founded in honor of her son, to have a permanent place for fundraisers.

Wallace, who has an MBA, said she’s worked in the business arena for some time and thought opening a brewery would be a good opportunity to do something different and apply everything she’s learned. “I’m looking forward to serving the people of Homewood.”

Live Free 999 aims to bolster organizations providing treatment for those struggling with mental health and drug use, something Wallace has said her son battled.

Juice WRLD, who was born in Chicago, died of an accidental drug overdose upon landing at Midway Airport in 2019. In 2020, Wallace penned an open letter about her son’s struggles with anxiety and depression for World Mental Health Day.

The vulnerability in Juice WRLD’s songs connected him with many young people, who couldn’t get enough of his music even after he died. In 2021, Spotify’s list of most-streamed U.S. artists had Juice WRLD at No. 3, behind megastars Drake and Taylor Swift.

The brewpub’s farm-to-table menu is still being worked out, Wallace said.

“We want to create a culture where people want to work and employees are treated well,” she said. “Just good food and a sense of community where it’s that place you want to go.”

The brewery is expected to open in the fall of 2024.

Juice WRLD Day 2022, the Second Annual Global Celebration of Life, is set for 6 p.m. Dec. 8 at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison. For info and tickets, visit unitedcenter.com.

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