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Wicker Park Doughnut, Coffee Wars Brewing Around Damen 'L' Stop?

By Alisa Hauser | July 10, 2013 10:04am
 A rash of new coffee and doughnut shops will join plenty of existing ones in and around the CTA Damen Blue Line "L" station.
Doughnut and Coffee Shops near CTA Damen Blue Line "L" Station
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WICKER PARK — Is a doughnut war brewing in Wicker Park?

Maybe even a coffee clash?

The Damen Blue Line station in Wicker Park is the battleground for two budding standoffs between  gourmet doughnut dealers and coffee shops.

The increasingly popular Glazed and Infused doughnut shop already is established in the 'hood, with a walk-up window near the "L" station. Now, L.A.-based Stan's Donuts is planning to move across the street.

"Doughnut wars!" a Glazed and Infused worker joked when told of the impending competition.

Meanwhile, a new gourmet coffee shop, Cafe Transit, is planning to set up inside the "L" station at 1558 N. Milwaukee. It'll go bean to bean with La Colombe Torrefaction, a Philadelphia-based coffee roaster that will be moving into the former Greener Cleaners space at 1552 N. Damen Ave.

"Healthy competition" might be an oxymoron when you're describing an infusion of new coffee and gourmet doughnut shops to the same half-block area, but that's exactly the phrase one of Cafe Transit's co-owners is using.

"Even if next to each other, any kind of healthy competition is good. Our focus is local good quality fast. I feel like we are in the center and they are around us," said Darko Arandjelovic, a co-owner of Cafe Transit, which is coming to the 80 square-foot former concession space inside the Damen Blue Line "L" station.

While La Colombe Torrefaction will be Cafe Transit's immediate neighbor to the south, on the other side of the "L" station, Stan's Donuts will be moving into the former Skewerz restaurant space at 1560 N. Damen Ave., a doughnut development first reported by Steve Dolinsky Monday.

Stan's Donuts will offer yeast-raised and cake doughnuts and is a partnership between Stan Berman and Alsip-based Labriola Baking Co., owned by artisan breadmaker Rich Labriola.

"Nothing beats a really awesome glazed doughnut, a cake doughnut, if you've got the base down of really great dough. Nothing," Labriola said.

Labriola, 50, said he first connected with 83-year-old Berman about seven or eight years ago during "the Krispy Kreme frenzy" when he cold-called the third-generation baker after seeing him on a television food show.

If all goes as planned, Stan's Donuts will serve 10 or 15 varieties of donuts and four or five daily specials. They hope to open around mid-October "before the weather gets too cold," Labriola said.

Glazed and Infused's walk-up window is on the northwest end of the Francesca Forno restaurant, which, if it had a physical address for its Damen Avenue-facing window, would be 1561 N. Damen Ave.

Representatives from the quickly expanding chain which opened its window in Wicker Park in May were unable to be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, even on a humid and sticky late Tuesday morning, a steady flow of people were craving doughnuts.

Nadia Trousdale, a writer, was buying a maple bacon long john and coffee from the Glazed and Infused window.

When told about Stan's Donuts moving into the former Skewerz space, Trousdale said, "I think it's blatant competition for Glazed and Infused. Why would you put [another shop] right across the street? It's b.s.," Trousdale said.

While the walk-up window might be perfect for those dashing to the train or headed to the nearby park, the fact Stan's Donuts is planning to have seating for about 20 patrons will differentiate it from its neighbors.

Stan's Donuts plans to open around 6 a.m. — one hour before Glazed and Infused — and is expected to bring 20 to 25 new jobs to the neighborhood too, Labriola said.

"We want it to be a coffee shop people come into every day," said Labriola, who added the coffee at Stan's Donuts will be locally roasted and have its own brand.

Heating up the competition, Cafe Transit also will be offering locally roasted coffee from its own brand, Metric Coffee Roasters.

Though there are no plans for doughnuts at Cafe Transit, Arandjelovic said he and his partners are "talking with a known awesome pastry chef," and will offer savory and sweet biscuits and scones.

When asked about Stan's Donut's proximity to similar businesses, Labriola said it was "100 percent coincidence."

"It was really about location. We liked the space. Everyone has favorites, being across the street from [Glazed and Infused] will feed off of each other. It brings more attention to doughnuts and can help each other's businesses," Labriola said.

In addition to doughnuts, those hoping for a colder treat can find gelato at Stan's Donuts too, Labriola said.