This is not a launch post, this is a thank you post. Sputnik Coffee Company started, as all great things do, as a pipe dream and bit of extra garage space amongst a few friends, and over a year of hard work later, it is becoming a reality on March 31st, 2018. About a year and a half ago, Vova called me while I was working in San Francisco and said he found a used U.S. Roasters 5kg for about a fifth of what it’s worth. It was in Ohio, he said, but Diarmuid could help pick it up. We got the money together in 24 hours, and 48 hours later we were unloading this 900lb beast out of a U-Haul with a punctured floor (no one noticed!) in Logan Square. We had absolutely no clue what we had set in motion.
We (Vova, Greesha, Diarmuid and myself) believe Great coffee should be affordable. A strong, balanced cup of coffee is the staple of every home, a necessity in most and a reminder of those few minutes spent every morning with family before the day starts. We want to make sure everyone can have a great cup of coffee at a great price. Sputnik is coffee for the masses, an incredibly fresh $6 bag that’s always in your kitchen, the local grocer, or dropped off on your doorstep by one of us. No more, but no less either.
To make sure that happens, we have only one blend (it’s delicious! - just ask our coffee importer who stumbled upon a bag at our distribution center by chance), we don’t have fancy cafes. We just roast great beans, consistently, with the help of technology, on a used roaster, in a space we built from scratch in New City Chicago. We pass all the value we can find on to our customers.
But this not a launch post. None of this could be possible without dozens of people stepping up because they believe in what we want to do. If this paragraph seems long, it’s because a lot of people helped:
- Dharma Tamm, living above the basement in which we perfected the recipe, instead of complaining about the noise gave us feedback and introduced us to Bob Quinlan, the CEO of Dark Matter Coffee (then at Virtue Cider).
- Bob showed up at 6am to an unfinished basement to watch me botch a roast while half asleep and has been sharing his wisdom ever since.
- His wife Jennifer, a coffee goddess in her own right who opened the first few Starbucks in Chicago, took it upon herself to make sure we build out our cafe right, to make sure we have the right teas to service a restaurant, to introduce us to grocery stores and cafes left and right.
- Katya Cherny made us pastries to sell at the South Loop farmer’s markets where we sweated the summers away, and even hand-drew our first logo.
- Jennifer Griffin turned our half-assed logos and typography into works of art that actually render online.
- Bob Fisher of Evanston Lumber gave us lumber and drywall and advise without even making dollar on us, just because he wanted to see us pull it off.
- Kevin Cooney, our very talented carpenter, built our walls and bathroom on early in the morning after leaving his night shift job. Benjamin Carillo taught us how to do the trim, paint and finishing work on a budget.
- Henry Gardunio gave us a space before we could afford to pay rent, made changes to his building to make our buildout possible, and was there every weekend beaming at the progress.
- Alex Soloviev from DWV plumbing made sure our plumbing was done right and beautifully so we could keep it exposed.
- Jaime Alvarez, our talented electrician, made it possible for our outlets not to trip when we plug in all our coffee equipment. Both were super patient with our last minute changes.
- The amazing team at Steamvolt found us cheap parts and grinders to make sure our first few clients were thrilled with our service.
- Naveen from Wise Cup in Oak Park took a chance on a new roaster and opened his new cafe using 100% Sputnik beans.
- Mark, Erica and co from On Tour gave us their pop up space in the mornings, and sell our coffee bags in their Brewery (who does that? you guys are amazing!).
- Jordan of the Winchester, fed up with distributors missing deliveries, remembered a kid from the neighborhood who had been bothering him for a few months. He even let us serve drinks behind the bar in the mornings! We now deliver within 24 hours of a text from him, because we get it: running a small business is hard, and inevitably you depend on countless others to make sure the customer walks out with a smile. We’re all in it together.
And all of this just made it possible. We invite you all to take a sip together at our finished Cafe and Roastery, 7 days a week. Come by for a cup of coffee in the afternoon, swing by at night to relax with us afterwards. We’re confident that if we focus on one simple blend, focus on the people that made this possible and on providing the best service we can to our customers, we’ll reach outer space soon enough. After all, if Belka and Strelka could do it, why can’t we?