Brewbike puts the brakes on operations after six years


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Brewbike’s flagship store was located in University Library.

Alex Perry, Senior Staffer

The student-run coffee shop Brewbike announced its immediate closure in an early August message to employees. 

The business cited an “extremely difficult macro-environment,” the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an inability to complete their last round of funding due to market pressure on investors as factors in its shuttering. 

I had no idea that Brewbike was in any sort of risk for this kind of thing,” McCormick sophomore and incoming campus CEO Rachel Ruddy said in a Sunday email. 

Co-founded in 2015 by Lucas Philips (SESP ’19)  and Brammy Geduld (SESP ’19), Brewbike operated 11 outlets nationwide and employed more than 20 Northwestern students in the shop located in University Library’s Café Bergson. 

Originally started as a coffee-on-wheels enterprise, it expanded to brick-and-mortar outlets after receiving funding from programs at The Garage, venture capital firms and angel investors. Its investment roster included Morningstar, Inc. founder and Chicago Fire FC owner Joe Mansueto and the Chicago Booth Angels Network.

Student workers said they were blindsided by the sudden closure, given Brewbike’s popularity and optimism expressed in recent company statements.

“I was kind of shocked,” McCormick sophomore and former barista Aru Singh said. “We felt that Brewbike was doing really well, at least at our campus.”

Just this year, NU’s outpost partnered with organizations like Mayfest Productions, The Dolphin Show, STITCH Magazine and Northwestern Recreation to offer limited-edition drinks, store merchandise and profit-shares. 

According to Ruddy, who worked both as a barista and in operations, it wasn’t unusual for Brewbike to have lines out the door, especially during exam season. 

She didn’t have exact numbers on customers, but as a member of the operations team, she said there wasn’t a shortage. Items like cups and syrups frequently had to be replaced, she said. 

And despite the coffee shop having competition brewing on campus, it was the only store of its kind located in University Library. 

“Even though it was maybe not as popular as Starbucks or Dunkin, it had loyal customers. A lot of people just really liked the cafe area in Main,” said Communications sophomore Marlene Alanis, who worked as a barista during Winter Quarter. 

Their optimism wasn’t only at the local level. 

In a January interview with The Daily, national CEO Sierra Bloodgood said Brewbike was “thankful to be in this growth stage.” In a December press release, the company announced that it had sold more than a quarter million cups of coffee and paid more than $700,000 in student wages since its founding seven years ago. It also shared plans for expansions into additional markets this year after solidifying more than $3 million in bridge funding.

However, like many businesses nationwide, Brewbike faced pressure from recent market downturns, record-breaking inflation and supply chain issues. The national inflation rate hit a 40-year-high of 9.1% in June and the consumer price index for coffee rose 3.5% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July report. 

No future details about its closure were included in the company-wide announcement, but Bloodgood and President Randy Paris circulated a Google Form student workers could fill out if they were interested in other employment opportunities on their respective campuses. 

NU has not released plans for the now-vacant space. Bloodgood and Paris could not be reached for comment.

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Twitter: @WhoIsAlexPerry

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