For years, immigrants, newly freed inmates and people accusing cops of misconduct have sought legal help from the Westside Justice Center on California Avenue just south of the Eisenhower Expressway.

Criminal defense attorney Brendan Shiller, who owns the building, is among the lawyers who’ve shared space in the mural-covered structure. Shiller, the son of former Ald. Helen Shiller (46th), is now living in Las Vegas, where he’s a professional poker player. And his daughter Britteney Kapri is hoping to convert a restaurant in the building at 601-11 S. California Ave. into a cannabis dispensary.

Kapri, who’s from Uptown, is one of the partners in Baked, a company that won a coveted social equity license to open a weed store. The process was designed to increase diversity in the marijuana industry.

In January, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said there were 113 adult use cannabis dispensaries statewide, including the first three social equity dispensaries that opened in 2022. A spokesman for the agency didn’t return a call seeking the latest figures.

A City Hall hearing on Baked’s zoning request is set for Tuesday.

Kapri says her 200-square-foot store would be separate from the rest of the building, with its own entrance.

For more than three years, Kapri and her team have struggled to find a location for their business while navigating the slowdown of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic and the rules that govern cannabis stores. She says she leaned on the expertise of her lawyer-father and her grandmother, the former Chicago City Council member, for guidance. Even so, it wasn’t easy, she says.

Britteney Kapri.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

“I am very, very new to all of this — being a business owner, dealing with the city, all of that,” Kapri says. “Even with Brendan and Helen’s help, it is a labyrinth. I am privileged more than most actual social equity applicants in that I have access to their resources.”

Though Kapri’s father moved to Nevada, he remains politically active in Chicago. In March, Shiller gave $1,000 to Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign and in the past two years also has contributed to Ald. Angela Clay (46th), Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd), Aaron Goldstein, the 33rd ward committeeperson, and Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th), state election records show.

Attorney Brendan Shiller.

Sun-Times file

Kapri is partners in Baked with Tyrone Branch and Vincent Carter.

“I am the vision for the brand, the dispensary,” she says.

Branch, who has a 51% ownership stake in the business, is a former Marine. He’s interested in running the security for the store, Kapri says.

Carter is a former “bud-tender,” Kapri says.

She says she wants Baked to be “fun,” not like some of the sterile-seeming dispensaries that popped up in the medical-marijuana era before recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Illinois.

“I want the marginalized people within the marginalized communities to feel good,” she says.

Tyrone Branch (left) and Vincent Carter.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Kapri, a published poet who writes under the pen name Black Rose, has taught poetry to kids in the Cook County juvenile detention center.

“I want to make sure that we create internships for kids that have been impacted by the war on drugs, create a pipeline from the juvenile detention center to internships with cultivators, dispensaries, things like that,” she says. “And also partner with the [Westside Justice Center] for expungement programs.”

Kapri says she knows that people in the surrounding East Garfield Park neighborhood buy cheaper marijuana from illicit dealers and doesn’t think a lot of them will switch to her dispensary.

“It’s not the same market,” she says. “There are people all around the city of Chicago who will come to my dispensary because of the culture and networks that I’ve created as an artist, as an organizer.”

A City Hall notice for the requested zoning change at 601 S. California Ave. posted on a window.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Kapri says she plans to hire people from the disadvantaged area.

She says she has support from Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) and the Good Hope Free Will Baptist Church across the street as well as local businesses. Ervin didn’t return a call seeking comment.

“Our plan is to open in the early spring of next year,” Kapri says. “But technically the city could come and say they don’t want to give us this location. And the honest answer is I would just have to start over and find another location because, no matter what, I’m going to get open. It would be beautiful.”

 A City Hall zoning hearing is set Tuesday for the store, called Baked. The proposed shop would replace a restaurant in a building that houses the legal aid center in East Garfield Park.  Read More