The owners of Bric-A-Brac Records in Logan Square were searching for two things: more space to show off their movie memorabilia and a source of caffeine closer to the store. The solution to both comes in the form of the Brewed, a horror movie-themed and all-day coffee shop that opened Tuesday, March 15, near the CTA’s Logan Square Blue Line Station on Milwaukee Avenue.
Nick Mayor, Jen Lemasters, and Jason Deuchler concede that Logan Square does not need another coffee shop. But they love horror and they love coffee. While looking for a new location last fall, Mayor and Lemasters, the owners of the nine-year-old vinyl and collectables shop came across the space at Milwaukee and Dawson. It was big enough to hold both the store and a coffee shop with seating for 40. “I thought, ‘This is the space,’” says Lemasters.
Deuchler, a DJ and fellow horror memorabilia collector, joined Mayor and Lemasters as a partner after they decided to open the Brewed. They financed the opening with government loans and with the money Mayor and Lemasters had saved for the down payment on a house, a plan that the pandemic put on hold.
The Brewed serves Half Wit coffee roasted less than half a mile away, pastry from Sugar Moon bakery right in the neighborhood, and sandwiches from Orkenoy, a Humboldt Park brewpub. There will also be cereal on tap, an idea borrowed from the Wormhole coffee shop in Wicker Park, where Mayor was a regular for the ten years he worked as a server nearby. “We’re congealing the neighborhood together,” Mayor jokes.
Like Wormhole, a shop filled with Star Wars and Nintendo trinkets from the ’80s and ’90s, there are nods to nostalgia at the Brewed. The signature espresso drink is called the Firestarter, a latte flavored with ancho chile, cinnamon, red chili flakes, and tangerine extract — a nod to the band Tangerine Dream, which did the soundtrack for the 1984 Drew Barrymore movie.
Not all of the jokes and allusions will requires such deep knowledge of horror movies. A poster for David Cronenberg’s The Brood hangs over the coffee bar to make clear to customers the source of the cafe’s name. And while the movie posters that decorate the walls will rotate periodically, that one, and the portrait of Cronenberg in a place of honor above one of the display cases, will remain in place.
They deliberately avoided what Deuchler calls “the usual blood and black” for the design. The large front windows, which let in plenty of sunlight, would discourage gloominess anyway, but their first purchase, multicolored vinyl booths from Facebook Marketplace, dictated a diner vibe, enhanced by the black-and-white checkerboard floor tiles. Fabricator Eric Wilson built the bright purple counter and the big sign decorated with monster eyeballs and helped Lemasters paint the back hallway so it would look like the wallpaper in Dario Argento’s Suspiria. “Someone suggested we play horror movie theme music,” Mayor says. “We’re not going to punish [customers] that much.”
Almost all the toys and games and other memorabilia displayed in cases around the coffee shop come from the owners’ personal collections and they are emphatically not for sale. (“Only for the right price,” says Deuchler.) The DVD’s in the front of the store are avaiable, though, and anyone who guesses all the movies that inspired the souvenirs in the display case in the center of the space, under the portrait of Cronenberg, will get free coffee for a year. The owners are searching for a poster from the original Candyman and would be grateful for any leads.
Eventually, the coffee shop will host movie nights and other events, maybe even hosted by Svengoolie (aka Rich Koz) the legendary Chicago horror TV host currently featured on MeTV.
The owners’ ultimate goal is to create a space where anyone, even a person who is terrified of horror movies, will feel welcome. “A lot of people have different assumptions about horror and what a place that celebrates horror feels like,” says Mayor. “We are hoping that it’s more open and inviting and doesn’t feel like an exclusive space if you’re not a horror expert.”
The Brewed, 2843 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.