An under-fulfilled life, a trip to the Philippines, and a compulsion to open a community-centered coffee shop–the story of Brewpoint’s conception sounds like a Hallmark special about following one’s dreams. Brewpoint co-founder and owner Melissa Villanueva shared her story in an interview, opening up about how Brewpoint started and where it’s headed.
Before Brewpoint, Melissa was a director of recruitment at a finance firm for three years after college. Melissa, however, was not satisfied with the corporate world. “In a lot of ways I felt like I checked all the boxes of what it meant to be successful, at least on paper, and ultimately didn’t find it fulfilling,” she shared.
What can fix a lack of fulfillment but a self-discovery trip to the Philippines? Melissa packed her bags and flew out. “It was while I was out there for a few months that I was hit by the vision to create authentic community spaces,” Melissa said. “Coffee is a great foot in the door to build up community, so that was a no-brainer for us.”
Upon returning to the states, Melissa approached her boyfriend Angelo with an idea for a coffee shop that acted as a uniting community space, a place for everyone in the community to feel welcome, safe, and accepted. She explained her strategy, which required three years of planning and saving money for this venture. He also had the pie in the sky dream to open a coffee shop, so they got to work, first hitting the web for ideas and tools.
While browsing Craigslist for an espresso machine, Melissa instead found a listing for a space in downtown Elmhurst: 124 W Park Avenue. The iconic red-brick building on the corner of Park and Adelle, which had hosted two coffee shops before Brewpoint, was too good to pass up. “It was perfect,” Melissa shared. “It was scarily perfect. Within a month and a half, I convinced Angelo, to invest all his money–we were only six months dating, so it was crazy–and we opened up Brewpoint.”
Brewpoint has always had a clear mission: create and empower authentic community spaces. Putting this mission into action, however, is another story. Melissa credits intention: “With the mentality of getting better every day, we’ve been able to grow Brewpoint over that past three years into what it is. The thriving, lively coffee shop that you see is due to just being present, being active, and wanting to do what we do better every day.”
In order to build up Brewpoint’s ability to foster community spaces, Melissa has cultivated a relationship with the Elmhurst Public library. “A partnership with the library is the most advantageous partnership we could have based upon our mission.”
As part of the auspicious growth Brewpoint has experienced this year, the Elmhurst Public Library’s partnership with Brewpoint will be taken to new heights with the debut of the Brewpoint Coffee Lexicon Cafe, which will assume the vacant space left by the library’s previous cafe.
“We were approached a couple months ago by Mary Beth, the director of the library, and she essentially told us that the current cafe there is retiring, and they were looking to have someone take over the library cafe,” Melissa explained. “Our team talked and thought about it for over a month, and I had a few interns doing research projects on library cafes. What we eventually concluded was what better way to enhance our our mission: to create and empower authentic community spaces? The library is the kingpin of authentic community spaces in the Elmhurst community.”
The Lexicon Cafe will be knowledge themed and more kid-oriented than Brewpoint’s original location, which will be referred to as the Founders’ Cafe. The Lexicon Cafe, since it will be in the same spot at the library’s previous cafe, only requires a few minor equipment upgrades before Brewpoint moves in. As such, the timeline for opening is short–you can expect to buy your favorite local coffee at the library in late September.
Though the transition is only a month away, it is by no means being rushed. Melissa does not believe that opening the Lexicon Cafe will be any easier than opening the original space was three years ago.
“I think the amount of energy it takes to be present in a new endeavor is something that you can never lose,” Melissa said. “No matter what we’ve done before, opening up the library cafe is going to be entirely different from opening up the founders cafe, and by no means do I feel like we can coast by with what we’ve learned so far. We have to be present for it, and we have to learn, grow, and take each day at a time.”
As for the roastery and cafe everyone in Elmhurst has heard so much about, that’s on the horizon, too. Build-out was able to begin on Monday, August 21, and from here, it is only a matter of time until everything falls into place. The 4,500 square foot loading dock is now being converted into the Brewpoint Coffee Workshop and Roastery. Melissa expressed her excitement:“We’re really excited to make that the flagship community space in Elmhurst. It’s a place that’s for Elmhurst, but we’re excited for it to be a destination in the Western Suburbs that showcases Elmhurst. We want to showcase Elmhurst’s diversity and the ongoing change happening here.”
By hosting art events in partnership with RGL Marketing for the Arts, the organization that runs the annual Art in the Park, Holiday Market, and Girls’ Night Out, the Workshop and Roastery can become that community destination. Of course, there will be events in partnership with the library as well. As Brewpoint becomes a larger entity, it can make more of an impact. Even roasting allows the coffee company to pay workers more and create intentional partnerships on the international level.
To answer the question on everyone’s minds, Melissa said, “I am very optimistic that [the Workshop and Roastery] will be [open] before the holidays. That’s the best that I can say, because you never know what delays you might run into. It’s less about meeting a timeline and more about doing this well.”