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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

New Edgewater Coffee Bar Opens During Pandemic: ‘In A Weird Way, My Business Was Suited For This’

After losing nearly all of his wholesale business when restaurants closed, Kyoto Black's Justin Doggett is hoping to make up for the losses with his new retail shop.

Justin Doggett opened retail store for his Kyoto Black coffee line in the middle of the pandemic.
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EDGEWATER — For five years, Justin Doggett sold his brand of cold brew coffee online and to popular restaurants and cafes throughout the city. The business grew enough to where Doggett has now opened his first brick-and-mortar store, a coffee bar and retail shop in Edgewater named Kyoto Black.

Despite opening the store during a pandemic, the new venture could not have come at a better time for the business, Doggett said.

That’s because while Doggett was working to open his new store at 1445 W. Devon Ave., the coronavirus outbreak in Chicago forced the closure of the businesses that served the Kyoto Black line of coffee. Doggett lost about 70 percent of his business due to the outbreak, he said.

Now, he is hoping the new store can make up for some of his lost wholesale business — and so far, the bet seems to be paying off.

“In a weird way, my business was suited for this environment,” he said. “It’s hassle free, it’s local and it makes people happy.”

Doggett established Kyoto Black in 2015. The brand makes the Japanese style of cold brew, which proponents say is smoother than other cold brews and has a distilled-like quality. While working at Metropolis Coffee, Doggett played around with various methods until coming up with a brew that was a hit, he said.

Kyoto Black sold coffee through its online store and through a wholesale operation, and the product was bought and served at high-end establishments like Cindy’s, Alinea, Bad Hunter and Soho House.

In 2016, Doggett sought to open a cafe of his own, but it was too expensive. Instead, he produced his coffee out of a small space at Edgewater bakery Edge of Sweetness, where his products were also for sale.

Now, Doggett has settled on a location, opening on Devon Avenue in his home neighborhood of Edgewater.

Kyoto Black’s store is a combination “coffee bar” and retail space, Doggett said. There’s a small menu of coffee drinks, a standing table for customers and space for the selling of his packaged coffee products.

“It’s almost like a brewery,” Doggett said of his shop. “Where they can fill a growler while you have a beer.”

Coffee drinks can’t be enjoyed in the store at this time, but Kyoto Black’s new setup lends well to a takeout-only service, Doggett said. The business only accepts credit or debit cards, and all of its products can be consumed on-the-go or at home.

Kyoto Black opened April 2. Because of the stay-at-home order, foot traffic by the business was slow, Doggett said. But the word started to get out, and social media posts explaining the overnight loss of his wholesale business has caused neighbors and friends to rally to the new shop.

“Literally no one was walking down the street,” Doggett said of the early days. “But when people found out I had taken that hit, they started ordering like crazy. It’s been undeniably good.”

Virtually everyone that has walked in the store has been a new customer, and previous customers have stepped up to order his products online, Doggett said. The support has been reassuring for a trying time in his business and the world.

“It’s been nice to see people really excited about it,” Doggett said.

Kyoto Black, 1445 W. Devon Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday-Sunday. For more information on the business, click here.

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