PORTAGE PARK — Coffee lovers rejoice: The Irving Austin Business District will once again be home to a cafe, as Joe and Melissa Basilone have taken over the spot left empty by the closure of Regulus Coffee House.
The Basilones, who own the Thrift & Thrive resale shop across Irving Park Road, hope to open the new Perkolator coffeehouse and cafe at 6032 W. Irving Park Road by the end August, and breathe new life into the business district along Portage Park's western edge, which is pockmarked with empty storefronts.
The cafe's name is a play on the old-fashioned coffee maker Joe Basilone remembers bubbling away on the stove in his grandmother's kitchen.
"The cafe will be a nice, warm, homey, comfortable space," said Basilone, who spent 15 years in the coffee business before opening up Thrift & Thrive with his wife. "A percolator really means warmth and comfort for me."
Heather Cherone says the new place will be honoring the many Polish traditions of the neighborhood:
The cafe will not only feature fresh-brewed coffee and locally made pastries, but also salads, sandwiches and soups, Joe Basilone said.
The cafe will also cater to the area's large Polish community, with a Polish-speaking employee and a Polish version of a Reuben sandwich set for the menu, Joe Basilone said.
"We'll be really friendly and welcoming," said Basilone, who made headlines earlier this year after his family fulfilled their 2013 New Year's Resolution to buy nothing new for a year. "We hope parents will come by for a cup of coffee after dropping their kids at school, and come for lunch on the weekend."
Perkolator will have a "vintage, retro-modern" decor, Joe Basilone said.
Thrift & Thrive, which opened in 2011, has done well, he said.
"This needs to be done," Joe Basilone said, referring to residents' demand for a coffeehouse near Irving Park Road and Austin Avenue. "We owe it to the community who have rallied around us."
But even still, the Basilones have a lot riding on the success of the cafe.
"I joked that we should call it the 401 Cafe because I dumped the rest of my retirement account into it," Joe Basilone said.
The Basilones helped found the Irving Austin Business District, and Joe Basilone said he is committed to helping the area thrive after years of slow economic growth.
"If we have to open a bookstore, we'll do it," he said. "Whatever it takes."
Despite the challenges facing western Portage Park, the business district has shown signs of new life recently.
Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) announced earlier this week that the long-vacant and neglected building next to Perkolator at 6040 W. Irving Park Road was being renovated and would soon be home to a restaurant "featuring an eclectic variety of cuisines."
Tea'se Tea Shoppe opened last month a few blocks away from the planned coffeehouse, and city officials plan to spend $600,000 sprucing up Irving Park from Austin to Meade avenues in an effort to boost business in the area.
Although Regulus held a fundraiser in March hoping to reopen the cafe, owner Brent Bogseth tweeted at the end of May that he was taking the summer off to look for a new place.
Joe Basilone praised Bogseth for putting his "blood, sweat and tears" into the storefront cafe.
Unlike Regulus, which stayed open late to attract moviegoers leaving a show at the Patio, Perkolator will close early, at 6 or 7 p.m., at least until the Patio reopens, Joe Basilone said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: