Reesheda Graham Washington, founder and CEO of RGW Consulting and Live Café, and Melissa Villanueva, founder and CEO of Brewpoint Coffee, have announced a collaboration that will transition Live Café, 163 S. Oak Park Ave., to Brewpoint Craft — a café serving coffee, cocktails and charcuterie. 

The transition is in process and the storefront is currently closed. Brewpoint Craft should begin a phased opening at the end of April. The shop will start by offering coffee only and is expected to be fully operational by June. The Live brand, now known as Live 2.0, will continue to influence the coffee shop in both formal and organic ways.

“We are joining forces to continue the services we both love to provide,” said Graham Washington. “We can improve on the successes of 2020 by working together.”

With three successful Brewpoint locations in Elmhurst, Villanueva was fielding expansion opportunities in multiple communities, but ultimately settled on Oak Park because of the uniqueness of the community and her pre-existing relationship with Graham Washington. 

Reesheda Graham Washington, left, owner of Live Cafe and RGW Consulting and Melissa Villanueva, owner of Brewpoint Coffee, stand for a photo outside of the storefront on Oak Park Avenue on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

The relationship between the two business owners has been “interwoven and intertwined” for more than four years.

“Oh, my goodness, I think I tagged Melissa first,” said Graham Washington. “I was really looking for a coffee roaster for the café and she ended up teaching me about the coffee industry. In our relationship she would bring the coffee and I would bring the community.”

Through quarterly check ins, a dual mentorship emerged between the women with reciprocal benefits to both businesses. Graham Washington became an asset to Brewpoint as a touchstone on issues of community development, equity and antiracism, while Villanueva offered her expertise in terms of coffee quality and café management. 

The idea of transitioning Live to the Brewpoint brand began taking form in 2020 when both Graham Washington and Villanueva were forced to become “nimble and creative” during the pandemic. Despite the unforeseen circumstances Brewpoint Coffee’s three Elmhurst locations finished their year “just as financially strong” as the year previous. Simultaneously, in response to increasing needs for conversations focused on race and inclusion, RGW Consulting saw a significant spike in business.  

Both Brewpoint Coffee and RGW Consulting were thriving at a time many other businesses were struggling.

Juggling increased consulting demand and café management, however, left Graham Washington feeling spread too thin. Around the same time, it became clear to Villanueva, who was feeling isolated in the wake of George Floyd’s death, that she wanted to expand Brewpoint into a community willing to engage in difficult conversations about race and equity.

“I was drawn to the willingness of people in Oak Park to acknowledge the pivotal point in history we are facing as a nation,” said Villanueva. “I want to be part of a community that helps set the stage for the hard work that needs to be done to address the pain within communities and collectively move forward.”

Brewpoint pays above fair-trade price when sourcing green coffee beans and will continue to highlight the Live Blend coffee they developed and roast for the former cafe but will also bring expanded offerings to the Oak Park Avenue location. Lovers of Live Café’s Jill Scott will do well or order a Borealis at Brewpoint. The signature latte features oat milk, espresso, honey, and cinnamon and has a toasted marshmallow flavor profile.

“We are going to hit it out of the park for coffee lovers, said Villanueva. “There is an air of pretentiousness in the coffee industry that we have no interest in. If you want cream and sugar in your coffee, you should put cream and sugar in your coffee. We want to be approachable.”

Additionally, Villanueva consulted with Will Duncan, owner of FitzGerald’s in Berwyn to develop a custom cocktail menu for Brewpoint. Expect a find a Brewpoint Old Fashioned on the menu as well as creative offerings like a Pisco Mai Tai. Locally sourced meats and cheeses will round out the menu.

As for Live, Graham Washington is eager to broaden her capacity to infuse equitable community practices into spaces like Brewpoint Craft.

“We will continue to step in as needed in the community,” said Graham Washington. “We are taking Live to the next level with the intention of integrating our ethos across the village by other local businesses.”

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