This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Lee Corrina Cano and Miguel Cano owners of The Coffee Studio located at 5628 N. Clark. The Coffee Studio is a modern, independent espresso bar focused on expertly crafting delicious drinks and their mission is to create authentic, warm, comfortable experiences that make high-quality coffees and teas more approachable and accessible for everyone.
“We love our neighborhood. We love our community. We love our store, our customers, our staff, and giving that up to try and open elsewhere has never been a priority for us.”
– Lee Corrina Cano
Listen to Episode 37 with Lee and Miguel!
Here are some references from Episode 27 that you may want to check out:
- Lee and Miguel meet in graduate school at the IIT Institute of Design. Both have a background in design, and while they originally opened a design business together, they were interested instead in creating a business that was “bigger than themselves.”
- Miguel grew up in Albany Park and his family owned an auto parts store, so he learned about small business operation from a young age.
- Prior to The Coffee Studio’s inception, Lee was taking classes at The French Pastry School and anticipating opening a chocolate shop called “The Chocolate Experiment” in which customers could design their own bar; however, both Lee and Miguel were also exploring craft coffee in Chicago at this point. For research, they started visiting Intelligentsia Coffee to learn the process, and ultimately decided they could create their own gourmet coffee experience for Chicago.
- Lee and Miguel traveled to Seattle, Portland, and visited trade shows in preparation to opening. They immersed themselves in the “third wave of coffee,” and wanted to bring to Chicago high quality coffee without the high price tag.
- The Coffee Studio is designed to invite conversation at their counter; it was designed with lower counters and put the espresso machine on a stage. Good design is timeless and elegant. New customers walk into The Coffee Studio today and think the design looks as if it could have been built this year.
- The Coffee Studio has been open 11 years, but Lee and Miguel have lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. Where The Coffee Studio is now used to an abandoned laundromat. Even though The Coffee Studio celebrated 10 years last year, Lee still feels “like a scrappy startup.” The business is a constantly morphing organism. The menu has changed to include flatbreads, craft beers and wines, and craft coffee or tea cocktails. They also make their own ice cream at The Coffee Studio! View the full menu here.
- In 2009, The Coffee Studio received a nod from Time Out Chicago’s Eat Out Awards for the “Proof that Evolution Exists” category. This was proof, in a way, that Lee and Miguel were doing something with coffee that was on the forefront of third wave coffee in Chicago.
- Now, there are more independent coffee shops than ever in Chicago. There are also more chains, but now they look a little different. To maintain an “old school mom and pop shop” feel, Lee and Miguel hire locally and try to keep as much money circulating in the neighborhood as possible. For example, they treat their employees to gift cards from other neighborhood businesses for birthdays and anniversaries.
- Originally, Lee and Miguel imagined opening more than one location, but they reconsidered when thinking about only “growing for growth’s sake.” They want to make sure to keep The Coffee Studio at a sustainable size.
- Miguel continues to do design work from home, but enjoys stopping by The Coffee Studio for the community interaction. He loves seeing the regulars there on a daily basis.
- Lee appreciates how lucky they have been since opening with press opportunities and mentions a write-up in Bon Appetit Magazine in which they were named one of the Top 10 Boutique Coffee Shops in the country. Even recently, Food & Wine Magazine released Chef Iliana Regan’s Guide to Chicago, in which she mentions her love of The Coffee Studio. Writer Heidi Liddle captured the essence of The Coffee Studio in her recent essay as well. Read here.
- Miguel advises young entrepreneurs to still remain frugal while following their passions. Lee also encourages “understanding the math” behind the business. They have even coached their staff on how best to set a budget, save money, and think conservatively.
- Both Lee and Miguel take their coffee black! But, The Coffee Studio does make their own syrups and sweet creations. “We want to meet people where they are.” They will offer an excellent Cortado for the serious coffee drinks, but also offer a peppermint hot chocolate and other sweet creations for those with a different palette.
- If allowed to trade places with another Andersonville business for a day, Lee first mentions Gethsemane Garden Center (5739 N. Clark) to be surrounded by plants all day, but would ultimately pick Norcross and Scott (1476 W. Berwyn). Miguel would love to switch places with Little Bad Wolf (1541 W. Bryn Mawr) because he loves music and appreciates their edgy environment. Miguel’s top playlist song would be Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On, and he’s even added it to some of playlists at The Coffee Studio! The music there is rotated daily.