Buzz Café on Lombard Avenue in Oak Park has been a community mainstay for almost two decades. As the neighborhood gathering spot prepares to celebrate its twentieth birthday in August, owner Laura Maychruk says the business endeavor has far exceeded her initial expectations.
She recalls her early days in Oak Park with her husband, “Our apartment was at Adams and Lyman, and we would walk to the Blue Line everyday down Lombard. When we started thinking about having kids, I wanted to do something more flexible for work and dreamed up the idea of opening a café. I’m Italian, and I love cooking for my large family.”
Maychruk wasn’t prepared for just how enthusiastic the response of the southeast Oak Park community would be to her new café. She initially hired four employees and hoped to sell $300 worth of product a day. With $300 worth of product going out the door in the first half hour of the day, she realized she was on to something big. Today, the Buzz employees around thirty employees and is open seven days a week.
At first, Maychruk was doing everything herself from cooking to managing the kitchen staff. As time went on and her family with Andrew grew to include their four children, she added a fully-trained staff and kitchen manager. Her menu grew too. Instead of just serving pastries, muffins, coffee and sandwiches, the Buzz added popular breakfast dishes and a brunch service that keeps the crowds coming all morning long. The restaurant also serves lunch, and six evenings a week stays open until nine p.m. serving dinner.
Through it all, Maychruk has been one of the Harrison Street Arts District’s biggest proponents, and the Buzz remains an anchor in the community. She notes, “Not to toot my own horn, but the Oak Park Arts District would be very different if I wasn’t there. I’m fully vested in the Arts District. We are very proactive about bringing in tenants who are enhancements to the neighborhood and who bring vibrancy to the community.”
Looking ahead, Maychruk has planned a two week remodel of the Buzz in mid-August, with a planned re-opening birthday celebration slated for August 31, the date the café opened twenty years ago. As she reflects on the past twenty years, Maychruk is relieved not only to have found her calling in operating the café but to have provided a focal point for the community.
“At the beginning, people would call asking if they could use the space, and I always said yes. We have political meetings here, and community groups meet here. It makes the café more of a reflection of the community. At the end of the day, it’s not my idea of what the café should be, it’s Oak Park’s idea of what the café should be.”
Visit Buzz Café at 905 South Lombard. The Buzz is open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and serves brunch Sundays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.