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Java in Bronzeville

Story by Renee I. Pandy
Submitted on Tue, 06/10/2008 – 02:54.

Richard Chalmers was living on Chicago’s North Side when friends moved to Bronzeville and began complaining about the shortage of coffee shops there.

Chalmers, 44, said he began thinking about the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s Southeast Side as a place to launch a new business.

Two years ago he opened the Bronzeville Coffeehouse at 528 E. 43<sup>rd</sup> St.   He teamed up with his longtime friend, Trez V. Pugh III.   The childhood friends never dreamed of starting a business together.

Chalmers started his research in 1999 by subscribing to magazines and visiting different coffee houses “to get an idea of how they operate,” he said.

“I thought Bronzeville would be the perfect area to open a coffee house,” Chalmers said.“A lot of people were moving from the North Side to different parts of the city and the amenities needed to follow.” Starbucks gave Chalmers the push he needed to follow his dream. “Starbucks made it OK to sell a $5 cup of coffee,” he said. “ Starbucks made it en vogue.”

Pugh, 44, wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of opening a coffee house, but Pugh said his friend “broke me down.”

Chalmers said he knew the building owned by Pugh would be perfect spot for a coffee house.

Pugh and Chalmers agreed that starting a business would be a lengthy process. They planned the business for two years working with vendors and contractors before the shop opened.

Pugh said he experienced many hardships and frustrations while opening the coffee house.

“It doesn’t matter how much you planned or what you put into stuff, there is always going to be the unexpected and the unknowns,” he said. “What is going to determine how good you are as a business person is how well you adjust.”

The Bronzeville Coffeehouse has been featured in the Red Eye and The Chicago Sun-Times. A few celebrities shooting movies in Chicago have visited the coffee shop, including comedian Monique and singer Tyrese.

The coffee shop has hosted speed dating and poetry readings. During warmer months live jazz is played outside on the patio.

“We have all walks of life that come in here,” Pugh said. “You have your professionals, CEO’s, Ph.D. students, contractors and professors. They love the atmosphere.”

Erik Hines, 39, lives in Bronzeville and visits the coffee house every day. “They have good coffee and I love the ambience,” he said. “They have a neighborhood feel.”

Mary Davis, 26, said she heard about the coffee house from her boyfriend. “I love the welcoming environment,” she said.

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