BRIDGEPORT — Fernando Gutierrez always knew he wanted to give back to his neighborhood, and he also knew he wanted to get back into the coffee business after working as a barista in college.
He hopes to bring those goals together when he and his family open the Stockyard Coffeehouse at 37th and Wallace early next year.
Gutierrez, an immigration lawyer with an office on Halsted Street, said owning a coffee shop is a longtime goal, and he hopes that his shop fills a need on the south side of Bridgeport.
"We felt there was a small vacuum on our side, south of 35th Street," he said. "We think it's a good place to offer it."
Gutierrez, along with his wife, sister-in-law and her husband, are working to open their shop in a former currency exchange at 558 W. 37th St. The couple live a block away at 37th Street and Union Avenue, so the business will not only fill a need in the area, it truly will be a local business, he said.
"We always knew we wanted to do something here," Gutierrez said. "Being part of the community means investing in it. We also want to make sure if we benefit ourselves, we also benefit the community."
The storefront the coffee shop will occupy is small, about 600 square feet, Gutierrez said. There will be seating for about 20, with cafe seating in the summer. But Gutierrez and his wife, Guadalupe Carranza, envision the place as having a healthy to-go business for people on their way to work or dropping their kids off at school.
"It will be more like a commuter space," Gutierrez said. "It will allow people to come in, have a drink and enjoy the community."
Work inside the building will begin within the month, and Gutierrez hopes to have the place open "shortly after the new year."
Traditional coffee shop drinks will be on the menu, as well as some specialty coffee drinks the team is still working on. There will also be pastries, sandwiches and other food items, the couple said. It will be convenient and affordable, Carranza said.
"It's something light and something inexpensive," she said. "It's for the area. That's what Bridgeport is. It's all family here."
Gutierrez grew up in West Town and moved with his family to Bridgeport 10 years ago. He said the new venture is a culmination of a lot of dreams. It's rekindling his love of coffee, as he worked as a barista while enrolled Downstate at the University of Illinois. It also satisfies his desire to invest in his community, as well as build something for himself, his family and his neighborhood.
So when the building at 37th and Wallace became available, Gutierrez said his family jumped at the chance. He said a dog-grooming business is moving in to the other vacant storefront in the same building, and that both businesses will benefit from the commuters on Wallace and the increased appeal of the neighborhood.
"There's a lot coming in here. I hope it continues," Guiterrez said. "It goes both ways. It offers security — that's the whole point. And it offers something to the community."