LOGAN SQUARE — Independent coffee shop Buzz: Coffee Roaster & Baker has closed for good after six years in Logan Square, becoming the latest casualty of the pandemic.
The cafe at 2779 N. Milwaukee Ave. temporarily closed in May after co-owners Stefan Hersh and Agnes Otworowski contracted COVID-19. But instead of reopening the cafe, the owners decided to shut it down permanently.
The business suffered from a significant drop in sales during the pandemic, and the burden had become too much to bear, Hersh said.
“We were making about one-third of the sales from before” the pandemic, Hersh said. “It’s not sustainable. It’s a lot of pressure because I’m the one who’s footing the bill.”
With the cafe closed, Hersh and Otworowski are focusing on the roasting side of the business. They recently moved their coffee roasting facility from a Diversey Avenue warehouse to a smaller space west of Humboldt Park’s namesake park, and they hope to be up and running and selling coffee online by the fall, Hersh said.
“We’re going to move back into bespoke, out-there coffee that nobody has only because that’s what we love,” Hersh said. “We’re taking the business expectations out of it, like: If we do this as a blown-up hobby, how would we do it?”
Buzz called Logan Square home since 2017, serving up small-batch coffee and baked goods in a spacious cafe outfitted with tables for remote workers, some made to feel like desks.
The closure marks the end of a 12-year run. Before Logan Square, Buzz was in Wicker Park as Buzz: Killer Espresso. Hersh and Otworowski launched the business with a goal of bringing people together through high-end coffee sourced from around the world.
For several years, Buzz was a success, Hersh said. Just a few years after opening in Wicker Park, Hersh and Otworowski expanded the business, adding an upper level with twice the amount of seating. They moved to Logan Square to ramp up their baking operation and other components of the business. The objective was to eventually sell wine and beer, Hersh said.
Buzz was never profitable, but in the years leading up to the pandemic, the business was on a “clear path” to financial gain, Hersh said.
But when the pandemic hit in 2020, Buzz was forced to shut down as it was gaining momentum, just two weeks after rolling out a food menu.
“The timing really couldn’t have been any worse,” Hersh said.
Buzz eventually reopened, but sales plummeted; the pandemic “made the business unsustainable,” Hersh said.
Hersh said they hung on as long as they could. After two years of financial challenges and facing uncertainty, they decided not to renew their lease, which was up at the end of July, he said.
As they clear out the Logan Square space, Hersh said they’re grateful to their loyal customers for the good run.
“We couldn’t have hoped to do anything like we did without this incredibly loyal following,” he said. “We made incredible lifetime friends at this business who will still be friends.
“We’ll miss all of that. It was a really fun, social experience and we wish it would’ve worked. We wish it would’ve done better. It is what it is.”
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