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La Colombe Cafe Expands to Wicker Park Under the Damen 'L' Stop

By Alisa Hauser | June 17, 2013 12:01pm
 After nearly 10 years at 1552 N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park, the Greener Cleaner is shuttering its doors, citing a lack of sufficient parking for its customers.  A Philadelphia-based coffee roaster, La Colombe, plans to open a cafe in the storefront by November, sources said.
Greener Cleaner Closes, Next Tenant is La Colombe Cafe
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WICKER PARK —  The Wicker Park outpost of a "green" dry cleaning franchise will close Saturday after a 10-year run, and, as early as November, there will be another coffee option near the CTA Damen Blue Line "L" station.

Greener Cleaners at 1552 N. Damen Ave., adjacent to the "L" station, will be replaced by La Colombe Torrefaction, a Philadelphia-based coffee roaster that opened its first Midwest location in the West Loop three summers ago, it was confirmed Monday.

Mike Bleier, owner of the Greener Cleaner franchise, said the business, which opened in Damen Avenue in 2003, "had a great run in Wicker Park."

"The numbers at Wicker Park were never very strong.  Parking was a constant source of frustration for customers with cars. If you do not have dedicated parking or any kind of convenient parking, customers will find a cleaner that does," Bleier said.

Meanwhile, as Greener Cleaners shutters, La Colombe's Midwest sales manager Corey Polkow said the coffee roaster's lease begins in July and a target date for opening a cafe is "sometime in November if everything goes well." 

Initially having hoped to open in the former Skewerz space at 1560 N. Damen Ave., Polkow said that it "didn't work out" but about three months ago, the Greener Cleaner space became available and it was "a perfect fit."

When asked about other coffee newcomers such as Cafe Transit, planning to move into a space inside of the "L" stop —  just footsteps from La Colombe — and Red-E Coffee building a cafe at  1562 N. Milwaukee Ave, Polkow said he was "well aware" of the fast-growing coffee scene.

"You can never have enough coffee," Polkow said, adding that La Colombe differentiates itself from competitors by having "a culinary focus" and being a first choice for hotels and restaurants, as well as offering an affordable price point.

According to Polkow, an average cup of coffee at La Colombe is around $2.

"We've always kept a belief that coffee should be be enjoyed by everyone and not just the elite," Polkow said.

Polkow said that the building La Colombe is moving into is a Chicago historic landmark that will require special permitting for the build-out, so he's not sure yet how it will impact the design of the cafe, but in general "it will have a similar look and feel" to the West Loop location at 955 W. Randolph St.

In addition to its cafes, La Colombe, which means "the Dove," in French, does the bulk of its business as a wholesaler, providing coffee to restaurants and hotels, such as The Public Hotel, The Langham and the Lincoln Hotel, Polkow said.

For the time being, Polkow said La Colombe has no other plans for cafe expansion in Chicago, as the company is also opening a rum distillery and another cafe in Philadelphia, along with new cafes in New York City and Washington, D.C.