One of Chicago’s most influential coffee makers, Intelligentsia, is pulling the plug on coffee shops in two neighborhoods. The coffee pioneer in April will close locations in Wicker Park (1609 W. Division Street) and Logan Square (2642 N. Milwaukee Avenue).
The company says the shops will close on April 19. Both stores opened 10 years ago and have leases that will soon expire. Management announced the shutters in an internal memo that was obtained by Eater Chicago. The email sent by Lori Haughey, the company’s vice president of retail, reads in part that “despite our best efforts from the team now, and days gone by, these locations have challenged us throughout the term of their lease and since coming out of COVID it has proven to be even more difficult to sustain.”
A worker at the Wicker Park location confirmed the closure, blaming the end of the lease and slow business. Both shops are unionized. A rep from IBEW Local No. 1220 had no immediate comment. Management’s email reads it intends to bargain stay bonuses and staff transfers with the union.
Labor challenges and stay-at-home orders have created a confusing environment for coffee shops since the pandemic started in 2020. Working from home means fewer customers in need of an early morning coffee before their downtown commute. The Wicker Park location, for example, closes at 2 p.m. daily. Additionally, there has been new competition from places like Foxtrot, the corner store chain (known as “bodegas” in some parts of America) backed by deep-pocketed investors. Foxtrot locations include a full espresso bar. And with venture capital to spare, Foxtrot has prioritized expansion.
But coffee hasn’t exactly been a rare commodity in Logan Square and Wicker Park, both dubbed at times as hot neighborhoods by real estate agents. Coffee shop openings are often greeted as signs of gentrification, an era ushered in by Starbucks.
Beyond the competition, Intelligentsia has less need for coffee shops as showrooms for its brand. The company, owned by Peet’s Coffee, has a large distribution network allowing customers to easily find Intelligentsia beans at their favorite grocery stores.
Wicker Park and Logan Square represent the third Intelligentsia closing since 2022 as an Old Town location closed inside Plum Market when the grocery store was taken over by Dom’s Kitchen & Market. Intelligentsia continues to be headquartered in Chicago with its roasting plant in West Town. Three Chicago coffee shops remain: the original on Broadway in Lakeview and two in the Loop. The Third Wave Coffee giant also has locations in LA, New York, Boston, and Austin, Texas.