HUMBOLDT PARK — Here is what Rosie Quasarano plans to serve at her Humboldt Park cafe, Cup and Spoon, in no particular order: pie, art, granola, poetry and, of course, coffee.
Here's how she plans to do it: by putting the cafe in the front room of Iwona Biedermann's Dreambox Foto Studio at 2415 W. North Ave.
It's a unique arrangement that both women say is just right for this burgeoning little stretch of North Avenue they and other residents have dubbed the WOW (west of Western) district. Here, the neighbors really do know each other's names.
"Coffee is at the core, but it's more than that," said Quasarano, who is targeting an early April opening. "The sign in the window says, 'Coffee, community and art,' and that's the mission, bringing people together and showcasing cool people and the neighborhood and what it has to offer."
Artist Tom Robinson, whose studio is across the street at 2416 W. North Ave., is building the wooden counter and bar that will be a focal point in the 1,000-square-foot space. Robinson was a furniture maker for three decades before he became a painter. He doesn't even drink coffee.
"We're very excited about our little area," he said.
The custom neon sign for Cup and Spoon is being made at Fishtail Neon, 2247 N. Western Ave.
Quasarano is keeping the menu very local, too — Metropolis coffee and tea and breakfast pastries and sweets from Cheap Tart. She's thinking of doing "cool toast service" (in the vein of what's taken hold in San Francisco) using breads from local bakers and butters flavored with herbs and made-in-Chicago preserves.
She plans to add lunch options later from vendors she's met at the Nosh food festival, where she launched Cup and Spoon last summer.
The cafe will hold art shows and open-mic poetry, music and spoken word events regularly, drawing from Biedermann's extensive network of artists.
"Coffee and I have a long history," Biedermann said. "Rosie is a wonderful young woman and I'm very happy because this is her dream."
Biedermann moved to the neighborhood 11 years ago, when vacant buildings along North Avenue outnumbered occupied ones.
In recent years, the area has quietly drawn an eclectic mix of independent retail and artists seeking affordable rent. Dotting North Avenue now are several art studios, a dance studio, a vintage furniture shop, a cigar store, a salon/clothing boutique and an Indian restaurant residents gush about. But there's no coffee shop.
For as long as she can remember, Quasarano has wanted to own a coffee shop, just a simple gathering place for coffee, pastry, art and conversation.
She held on to that goal while working her way through college as a barista and art studio manager, and in the years after graduation as she built a successful advertising career.
Two years ago, Quasarano moved to the neighborhood. Last summer, she made the big leap: from associate creative director at a division of the Leo Burnett Group to pop-up coffee shop owner, running a stand (with her boyfriend Suneil Bisht and her brother Frank Quasarano) at the Nosh and looking for a storefront.
A stop into An Orange Moon, the vintage furniture store at 2418 W. North Ave., was fortuitous. Quasarano and the shop's owner, Lynn McDaniel, got to talking about her cafe concept. McDaniel in turn introduced her to Biedermann across the street.
"In this economy, instead of competing with each other, you share the customer. Rosie and I are very much interested in that," Biedermann said. "Her vision for a coffee shop embraces all the cultural and art exchanges that can take place in this space."
"The good vibe is already in that place," said McDaniel, who also lives in the neighborhood.
An Indiegogo campaign, which ends March 7, has raised nearly 70 percent of Quasarano's $15,000 fundraising goal.