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As the days grow shorter, so too does our time here with the Build-Outs of Summer. It’s bittersweet; the temperature grows closer to ideal coffee drinking weather but we are losing one of our most-fun series of the year. But we still have a few lovely cafes we want to share with you before the sun sets on the BOoS. And we are kicking off the beginning of the end with Tala Coffee Roasters in Highwood, Illinois.
Setting up shop just a short half-hour car ride north from Chicago, Tala Coffee in a revitalized fire station. Cold winters, old buildings, and all manner of unique troubles associated with trying to open in a historical building all conspired against Tala. But you can’t keep a good shop down. After a prolonged build-out, Tala is open for business, and from the looks of the space, it is well worth the wait.
As told to Sprudge by Stefan Tong.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Tala Coffee Roasters is a small-batch coffee roasting company based out of Northern Illinois. We roast in Libertyville, IL and serve our coffee in our brick and mortar in Highwood, IL. We started the company summer of 2017 through online sales, wholesale, and farmers markets.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Our new space is in the historic fire station of Highwood, IL. A neighboring city merged fire departments leaving the Highwood fire station for sale by the city. We were able to connect with someone desiring to take the building and turn it into a multi-business structure who loved the idea of having a cafe inside. The process of acquiring the building to completing the buildout took about a year. There were many details for our landlord to handle based on the unique nature of the space and that it is protected as a historical building.
When we were able to begin construction it was dead in the middle of a bitter cold Chicago winter. The paint wouldn’t stick on the walls so we had to wait out the season to really get started. By spring of 2018 we were in full force and began from the ground up with plumbing, electric, bar, etc. The whole floor is pitched in the center of the room for drains that were utilized for the fire trucks so we had to build every single structure with wedges to level everything. Took a crazy long time! Now that it’s finished we want the cafe to serve as a beautiful homage to the fire station and as a centerpoint for the community to congregate.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Coffee is for everyone. We desire our company to be approachable, intentional, connective, and offer quality coffee. Sometimes these core values can conflict with each other because our service and knowledge of coffee runs the risk of alienating our customers, so we make sure to offer accessible beverages and craft drinks that anyone can be excited about (not just the TDS geeks).
Our staff is hired and trained off of if they are people persons, not coffee persons. It’s not worth it for us to serve a specialty item and be mean people about it. We want our coffees to model sweet and beautiful things and we consider that during the cupping process.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We are using a three-group Synesso Cyncra and Mazzer grinders to handle the spro, Baratza Vario-W grinders for our Kalitas and Chemexes, and a Mahlkönig GH2 grinder with a FETCO CBS 2052e for our batch brew (found the FETCO in this old gas station in Wisconsin for 30% of the price. It was epic!).
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We opened August 11!
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
A big thank you to our good friend and carpenter Brandon who did all of our tables. He owns a company called Craft Hammer and killed it with all of the tables that we have in here.
Thank you! We are excited to join the wonderful community of Highwood, IL and elevate the culture of specialty coffee.
The Build-Outs Of Summer is an annual series on Sprudge. Live the thrill of the build all summer long in our Build-Outs feature hub.
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