New independent coffee shop Brue Coffee aims to be community center

Tori Latham, City Editor

A new independent coffee shop has plans to open in Evanston and serve as a gathering place for the community.

Brue Coffee will replace the Starbucks at 2438 Main St. in the Main Street Commons Shopping Center.

Wilmette resident Peyton Brooks, Brue’s owner, said he hopes the shop will become a local spot where people can get together.

“When the Starbucks moved out, it left a hole in the community,” Brooks said. “It was a meeting place for people. I think we can fill that gap.”

Brooks said he has worked in the retail coffee world for about 12 years, previously holding a job at a Starbucks. The landlord of the space at Main Street Commons had been a customer of Brooks’, and approached him when the Main Street Starbucks vacated the spot to see if he wanted to open his own shop. After some discussion, Brooks said he decided opening a coffee shop was a good idea.

“Anywhere you go, it’s the same basic elements,” Brooks said. “I’m hoping to do something unique, which is why we’ve partnered with one specific coffee roaster.”

Brue will sell products from Asado Coffee, a Chicago-based, small-batch roasting company. Brooks said Brue will be its first wholesale customer. He emphasized Brue will also use several products from local vendors, such as pastries and other foods, as a way to support the city.

“We want to maintain the integrity of the product and one of the best ways to do that is by using all local providers,” he said.

Aside from serving coffee and baked goods, Brooks highlighted his hope that Brue will become a location where people can hang out. He has plans for movie nights, community events and programming for locals.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said he thinks Brue is a great addition to southwest Evanston.

“It responds to the needs and desires of the community,” he said. “As soon as (Starbucks) moved out, Peyton jumped on the opportunity. We’re very lucky he identified the opportunity with not a lot of down time.”

Although there are many other coffee shops in the city — both independent and chains — Brooks said Brue will stand out because of its emphasis on personal attention.

“I still like face-to-face interaction, which is how you develop a customer basis and ingratiate yourself with the community,” Brooks said. “I’m going to be here 15 hours a day, every day … striving for customer satisfaction.”

Brooks attended the 2nd Ward meeting May 14 to introduce himself to locals and said he received a positive response from attendees. Braithwaite said his constituents have received the news of Brue’s opening with a lot of praise.

Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development coordinator, said Brue’s mission is in line with other businesses that have been opening in the city, such as Elysium Games, which opened last month. These stores serve as spaces where people are free to gather and hang out, something the city has even more room for, he said.

Zalmezak emphasized that Brue is an independent operator, something he said he is pleased to see in the city, especially in a space previously occupied by a large chain.

“It’s a small space, but it makes all the difference for the people who were so used to having a Starbucks around,” Zalmezak said.

Brooks said he plans to open by early June, but admitted that timeline might be too “optimistic,” as Brue is still in the permit process. However, whenever the shop finally opens, Brooks said he hopes it will serve the community well.

“I hope to live up to their expectations,” Brooks said. “Being a good neighbor is the most important thing.”

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