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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Retro West Town Cafe And Shop Focuses On Being Playful — But Productive: ‘It’s Like Time Moves Slower’

The long industrial checkout counter at the Center of Order and Experimentation is designed to make you feel like you're going back in time. 

A new cafe and store that offers coffee, pastries and curated homegoods opened in West Town June 25.
Provided//Paul Octavious
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WEST TOWN — Stepping up to the long industrial checkout counter at the Center of Order and Experimentation is designed to feel like going back in time. 

Credit: Provided//Paul Octavious
Co-founders of COE Jean Cate and Julie Purpura designed the space with inspiration from the post-modern era.

The cafe and store opened June 25 at 1727 W. Grand Ave., offering coffee, pastries and curated home goods in a retro-inspired space.

Co-founders Julie Purpura, of interior design firm Avenir Creative, and Jean Cate, who owns Martha Mae, wanted the shop to seem like “a familiar place from childhood” that’s free of uncertainty, Purpura said. 

“We wanted to add a quirky or campy quality to it, where you could feel like you’re entering Jean and I’s universe,” Purpura said. “We’re wearing weird uniforms and we’re here to assist you with our 1980s packaging and huge front counter.”

The two friends executed their vision with vintage, utilitarian decorations inspired by libraries and post offices, a classic cafe menu with Monday Coffee Co. and shelves full of neatly packaged products designed to improve day-to-day productivity. 

“It’s a unique experience inspired by post-modern art and architecture,” Purpura said. “There’s something so cool about feeling like you’re back in the day, it’s like time moves slower.” 

Credit: Provided//Paul Octavious
One decadent but useful item you’d find at COE is a decorative, inedible cake-shaped candle.

The store is stocked with functional but playful objects, like a cake-shaped candle that can be reused each birthday, Purpura said.

“Julie and I both really appreciate physical objects and routine, so a lot of the things we’ve curated in the shop help you organize your life and feel grounded in whatever you’re doing, while also making your routine more fun and efficient,” Cate said.

People can browse the store’s products and grab coffee and pastries, which are made by Monday Coffee Co.

Cate and Purp0ura included the cafe in their business because they want the Center of Order and Experimentation to “be a part of people’s daily lives and a place where people in the neighborhood can connect,” Cate said.

The store also has an outpost for Martha Mae: Art Supplies and Beautiful Things, a business run by Cate. It used to have a physical location in Andersonville that closed due to the pandemic.

The cafe and store is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday at 1727 W. Grand Ave. More information is on its website.

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