Metric Coffee, a longtime leader in Chicago’s competitive independent coffee scene, has lined up the pieces to begin work on the company’s most ambitious project yet: an all-day cafe and roastery featuring tours, brewing classes, and wine close to where Kedzie Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway meet in Avondale.
Co-founders Xavier Alexander and Darko Arandjelovic spent more than a year working to secure the location, a 100-year-old building that housed an antique retailer. Since founding the company in 2013, the pair have run operations out of a cozy space on Fulton Street in West Town, but even before the pandemic, they were feeling the strain of a small footprint that has only a sidewalk patio for customer seating.
“We always had a dream and vision to [expand], but we couldn’t do it in the tiny space we have and didn’t want to do it in a space we didn’t own,” says Alexander. “We want to put down roots in a place where we can grow and build a viable business where we can control all the aspects that are controllable.”
The roaster will shut down production at its Fulton Street space, but keep the facility open by converting it into a veritable playground for coffee fans with brewing classes and an assortment of espresso machines for students to examine and test. Alexander says he’s many people bought equipment they don’t know how to use during the pandemic, and customers could even bring in their own machines for a staff tutorial.
They began the search for a new outpost in July 2021 but it wasn’t until August 2022 that they finally inked a deal to purchase the Kedzie Avenue building. While they hope to open the doors by spring, they say ongoing supply chain problems and high costs for labor and materials will likely push back the debut to that summer or even fall.
Now, with almost 9,000 square feet at their disposal, the co-founders plan to expand their purview significantly with a kitchen, retail space, production facility, and a dine-in cafe with a pizza oven as well as draft wine and beer. A menu is still in the works but fans can expect a full selection of pastries and baked goods from long-time baking partner Brite, cold-pressed juices, and familiar American fare like burgers. Alexander says the approach is inspired by Australian roasters like Seven Seeds and Proud Mary Coffee that have woven a focus on seasonal food and wine into their cafes in a way that has yet to proliferate America.
Metric will also use lessons gleaned from the early years of the pandemic with a tiny grab-and-go operation, called Little Gem: “In the event that, god forbid, there’s another wave [of COVID] or some catastrophic global thing, we can shut down almost every aspect of our cafe and wholesale without affecting the grab and go,” Alexander says.
Activities like roasting tours and public cuppings will relocate to the new location on Kedzie in a move that the co-founders will help foster relationships with the community. Thus far, Alexander says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response neighbors in the majority Latinx area have shown for the plan.
“Avondale is going to be the crown jewel,” he says. “In my opinion, there is no space that is quite like this. It’s about service, how we look people in the eye, how we greet and educate them, and make them feel like they can drink their coffee any way they want — a space for everyone, not just a certain demographic.”
Metric Coffee All Day Cafe & Roastery, 3110 N. Kedzie Avenue, Tentatively scheduled to open in summer.