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South Loop Coffee Pop-Up Emerges as Black Entrepreneurship Rises

Chicago French Press will debut Saturday at the Roosevelt Collection

A person smiling, wearing a black rimmed hat, holding a coffee cup while sitting on a stool.
Kris Christian is opened a coffee pop-up in South Loop.
FAME Enterprises [Official Photo]
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Kris Christian started her own coffee company hoping to share her love of coffee with others. Chicago French Press, which focused on the home and office markets, will now pivot as this week Christian unveils a pop-up coffeeshop at the Roosevelt Collection in the South Loop. The pop-up will last through the end of the year.

Christian, who works in marketing, admits to being intimidated by coffee snobs, a feeling she feels many people share. She always felt that she’d need specialized equipment at home and learn complex techniques to brew the perfect cup at home. With Chicago French Press, Christian hopes to demystify coffee, to show coffee novices that they can brew gourmet coffees at home.

Christian graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and has since spent a decade in Chicago. She worked in the banking industry before founding Chicago French Press. Previously, he company worked with WeWork to provide coffee at the co-working spaces. But as folks stay at home and away from co-working, Chicago French Press had to pivot. Through the end of the year, Chicago French Press will offer specialty drinks like a lavender coconut latte (made with a special lavender syrup) and ground beans for home drinks. Customer can order coffee online for curbside pickup or drink their beverages on a small outdoor seating area.

A bag of coffee on a wooden table with beans scattered and a cup of coffee.
Chicago French Press wants to expand.
FAME [Official Photo]

There’s a disconnect between Black America and coffee, even though many beans are harvested from Africa. Coffee isn’t the preferred drink for many in the community. In Chicago, Black-owned shops like Sip & Savor and Kyoto Black, have shown this is changing. In Englewood — a predominantly Black community — a Starbucks opened in 2016 and further showed that coffeeshops are a needed neighborhood amenity.

“Representation matters. Being a woman and Black, I wanted to see my face in the coffee industry,” Christian says. “Previously, it’s something I didn’t see myself in.”

The coffees, which are certified organic, fair trade, and non GMO, come in flavors like maple pecan, chocolate blueberry, and peach nectar. The beans are roasted in Pilsen. Chicago French Press has previously partnered with groups like the Simple Good and The Take Back. For the pop-up, they plan on donating 5 percent of sales from each coffee bag to a charity. Christian is hoping to take the operation national. As Black Lives Matter protest continue to counter the number of police shootings of Black men, Christian has also expanded her company’s scope. In June, Chicago French Press donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Christian hopes to open more locations. The pop-up is an effective marketing tool to introduce people to her brand and to push them toward monthly coffee subscriptions. Black entrepreneurs are getting more opportunities as the spotlight shines on racial injustices, Christian says. But, in a sentiment echoed by many Black members of the service industry, Christian mentions that those in power — the majority of who are white — need to lead.

“It’s really good to see the Roosevelt Collection is interested in diversity,” she says.

Chicago French Press, inside the Roosevelt Collection, 1021 S. Delano Court, pop-up debuts Saturday, September 5 through the end of 2020.

Roosevelt Collection

150 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60605 Visit Website