East Garfield Park roastery gives public early glimpse

The establishment, set to open by summer, hosted open house on Jan. 9

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

On Jan. 9, Passion House Coffee Roasters held an open house at its roastery at 328 N. Albany Ave. 

The business owners invited friends, suppliers and local residents to check out the operations, meet the owners and staff, and celebrate what the company has accomplished so far. Passion Roasters only recently got the new roastery up and running, and it's gearing up to open a coffee shop in the northern part of the building. Their goal is to open the coffee shop no later than this summer.

The owners said that they wanted to be a part of the community. Passion House and their partners, Veteran Roasters, are already working with the nearby Hope Manor, a supportive housing development for veterans. The business also recently joined the former Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce. 

Passion House launched in 2011. It previously operated out of a warehouse at 2021 W. Fulton St., in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor on the Near West Side. They decided to move to East Garfield Park to have more room to expand. As founder and owner Josh Millman mentioned during the open house, they were not only able to put in another roasting machine, but they have enough room to put in more equipment. 

"So, overall, we've tripled our roasting capacity," said Aaron Cowans, the company's sales manager, explaining that, while the previous roastery space was 1,200 square feet, the new space is 4,500 square feet. 

While much of their business comes from selling their roasted coffee, Passion House also operates three coffee shops in Logan Square, Goose Island and the Loop. James Gray, the company's CEO, said last year that that they planned to open a fourth location in the same building as the roastery. Cowans confirmed that this is still the plan, saying that they were "going to start the build-out soon."

Veteran Roasters was founded by Branden Marty, a U.S. Navy veteran, in order to provide jobs for veterans struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Marty said he not only hires veterans, but helps them find housing, get the government benefits that they're entitled to and generally tries to help them get back on their feet. Veteran Roasters employees use Passion House's equipment and the two companies help each other out in other ways, as well. 

"We hope to meet our new neighbors, and how to see how we can integrate more fully into the Garfield Park and the West Side community, and maybe even find more customers," Marty said. 

I'Talia McCarthy is a general manager at Logan Square Dill Pickle Food Co-Op, which stocks Passion House's coffee. She said she is a frequent visitor to the Garfield Park Conservatory expects Passion House to have a positive impact in the area. 

"I think it's going to bring more businesses [to the neighborhood]," McCarthy said. "I can really see a food truck show over here. I think it's going to uplift the community."

Shari Stontz co-owns Bold Dog Beer Company, which is located a few blocks from Passion House's previous roastery location, at 417 N. Ashland Ave. She said she's only been to East Garfield Park a few times, visiting the nearby Hatchery food business incubator. She also thought that the roastery could be a catalyst for commercial development.

"I think it helps out everyone," she said. "I mean, it's not a neighborhood where people normally set up businesses in, so it's nice that businesses are coming to the neighborhood. 

Connor Lord, of Logan Square, said he started out as a customer at Passion House's neighborhood coffee shop location and since became friends with Millman. He said that the company was involved with neighborhood charities, and he expects them to do the same in East Garfield Park.

"I think they're a good model for other small businesses," Lord said. "I think they'll be interested in getting involved in community building initiatives, in terms of making the neighborhood safer and [creating] more communal spaces. I think it will attract other companies to use the area for operations. I think it's important to be involved with the resident side of the community, which I think is something [Passion House] excelled at in Logan Square." 

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com  

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