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Phillip Morales and his mom Liz often struggled to indulge in desserts that didn’t leave them feeling sick. They are lactose intolerant, so for a long time, they would carefully indulge in dessert and wait for the stomach aches to begin.

Morales was born and raised in Schaumburg but lived for a while in Las Vegas. He was pursuing new business ideas, and when he came across Cinnaholic, he knew he couldn’t pass it up. 

“We were pretty blown away,” he said. “It was a great product and we felt like it was something we had to bring to Illinois.”

Cinnaholic, a vegan cinnamon roll bakery franchise was founded in 2010 in Berkeley, Calif. The co-founders, Shannon and Florian Radke, were on Shark Tank in 2014 and accepted a final offer to invest in the business. But they opted to pursue a franchise business model instead.

Co-founders Shannon and Florian Radke pitch Cinnaholic on Shark Tank

Within their current model, people across the country like Morales and his family can invest in Cinnaholic and open and run locations. Morales opened his first store in Schaumburg and recently decided to take Cinnaholic a little further east to Evanston, which opened Aug. 6 at 1596 Sherman Ave.

“I have friends in the Evanston and Skokie area,” he said. “With Northwestern University so close, and once we saw the space on Davis and Sherman, I could picture it all and I felt like it would be a perfect fit for the area.”

At 5 p.m. on Aug. 5, Cinnaholic Evanston had a special opening for family and friends of employees and the invitation was extended to this reporter as well.

Cinnamon rolls, fresh out of the oven. (Photo via Sam Stroozas)

As I walked into Cinnaholic I was greeted by vibrant purple walls as well as Phillip and Liz’s guests. Even with masks on, you could see their smiles. The workers were ready to go, some from the Schaumberg store and others were new Evanston hires preparing for the fast-paced environment in the cinnamon roll world.

The rolls are customizable, you can either order a specialty roll like the Cookie Monster, Tropical Bliss, Carmel Apple Pie and more, or you can design your own beginning with picking multiple frosting flavors and toppings.

But one thing many guests miss – everything sold at Cinnaholic is 100% vegan, dairy, lactose, egg and cholesterol-free. The best feeling for Morales is being able to tell people with allergies or other restrictions that they can have whatever they want.

On display: the Wildcat roll, named after the Northwestern mascot (photo via Sam Stroozas)

“A majority of our customers have no idea we are vegan; they’re just enjoying a delicious cinnamon roll,” he said. “You aren’t going to see a huge vegan sticker on our window, it is sort of tucked away. We let them try the product and fall in love before we tell them it is vegan. It’s a dessert but leave the stomach ache at home.”

The Evanston store also features three Chicagoland-specific rolls – the Navy Pier, the Lake Michigan and for Northwestern fans, the Wildcat.

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...