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Coffee Industry Veterans Open Uptown Cafe, Featuring Unique Drinks: ‘We Like To Experiment’

Drink Happy Thoughts comes from the co-founder of Hero Coffee Bar and the team behind Happy Monday Coffee Roasters.

Salazar and Alexander, pictured here sourcing coffee beans, specialize in creative concoctions at Drink Happy Thoughts in Uptown.
Courtesy Yamel Salzar
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UPTOWN — The founders of a popular local coffee shop chain and a downstate coffee roaster have opened a cafe in Uptown — and they are using their industry experience to offer creative concoctions.

Drink Happy Thoughts has opened at 942 W. Montrose Ave., the former home of The Satellite Cafe. The cafe is the creation of Yamel Salazar and Craig Alexander, who operate Happy Monday Coffee Roasters in Kankakee.

Alexander is the co-founder of Hero Coffee Bar, a coffee shop with multiple Chicago locations that Alexander sold in 2018. He also is a partner in the Limitless brand of caffeinated sparking water, and the couple are investors in West Town-based DonutSlut.

Happy Monday is a wholesale supplier of coffee beans that has grown since its inception three years ago, Salazar said. After finding success in the wholesale business, the couple decided to open a coffee shop of their own so they can devise decadent drinks from the beans they roast.

“We try to have unique things and be a little interesting,” Salazar said. “We like to experiment. If it tastes good, we’ll introduce it to the shop.”

Drink Happy Thoughts opened in late April, weeks after the coronavirus pandemic led to a stay at home order. Coffee shops were considered essential during the coronavirus shutdown, but the pandemic did impact the business, Salazar said.

Not able to host customers for sit-down business, the cafe owners used platforms like GrubHub to get the word out about the new shop. A grand opening will likely take place once the city reaches its final phase of its reopening plan, Salazar said. Phase 4 is scheduled to begin July 1.

Despite the pandemic, word is getting out about Drink Happy Thought’s specialty coffee drinks, Salazar said.

The cafe offers a new specialty drink each month, with previous creations including the Mocha Fudgesicle, which includes an actual fudge ice cream bar. There’s also the CocoMint Cold Brew, which Salazar described as like a “coffee mojito,” and the Campfire S’mores, a mocha coffee drink with graham cracker crumbs and a roasted marshmallow.

Drink Happy Thoughts also offers an array of toast recipes, smoothies and acai bowls. On Sundays, the cafe offers doughnuts from a rotating group of partners, including DoRite Donuts and DonutSlut, which is also known for its off-the-wall creations.

“Our mission is: healthy, but with some treats,” Salazar said.

The cafe, covered in busy, colorful murals, has seating for about 20 people and will likely allow for some sit-down service come July 1, when restaurants can begin seating customers, Salazar said.

When Salazar and Alexander decided to open a coffee shop, they decided to locate the business in Uptown, where the couple lives.

“It’s great to be able to serve the community we live in and call ourselves neighbors,” Salazar said. “It means a lot to us.”

Drink Happy Thoughts, 942 W. Montrose Ave., is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. For more information, go here.

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