Madison Street’s Whirlwind Coffee Co. is turning its unattached garage building into a new workspace, allowing for expanded services and coffee roasting events.
“The garage and workspace is going to be for growing our roastery or cold brew offering, and also servicing a lot of our wholesale [business-to-business] customers,” said David Silverstein, Whirlwind founder and owner.
The garage sits behind the main coffeeshop’s landscaped side yard, where customers can sip their drinks under turquoise umbrellas. Once the grass of the yard recedes, a paved section backs up into the back of the garage. Silverstein plans to put a glass roll-up garage door at the back of the garage, so that the paved area can be used for additional seating for a sort of outdoor coffee bar.
Part of Whirlwind’s roastery operations will be moved into the remodeled garage, allowing customers to watch as beans are roasted through the glass garage door for an “upgraded experience.”
“It’s almost going to be set up like a lab,” Silverstein said of the remodeled garage, which will also have a restroom.
Whirlwind offers intimate roastery training sessions for small groups of up to four individuals, which will take place in the new workshop once completed. The sessions are often donated by Whirlwind to charity auctions and raffles, but interested parties can also purchase sessions for just under $300.
During the two-hour sessions, Silverstein and Whirlwind staff teach the participants about coffee and the different regions of the world where coffee beans are harvested, then participants are instructed in the actual roasting process and its nuances.
“We actually supervise them on a roast and then at the end, they get to take whatever coffee it is that they roasted, they get to take 10 pounds of that home with them,” Silverstein said.
Desserts and, of course, coffee are served during the sessions.
Whirlwind already holds some events in its side yard. The coffee company hosted the Chicago Children’s Theatre for a free performance of the theater group’s “Red Kite” show Aug. 5, which Silverstein said was a “huge event.” He estimated 125 people showed up for the show, despite the forecasted inclement weather.
“We were nervous because it was threatening to rain that day and was misting, but people still came out,” he said. “It was jam-packed.”
Silverstein said he expects to host similar events in the future, but those interested in supporting Whirlwind and the Chicago Children’s Theatre can purchase bags of the “Red Kite” blend at whirlwind. For every bag sold, $3 is donated to the theatre group and its “Red Kite Project,” an initiative to give neurodivergent children the opportunity to experience theater in an environment conducive to their needs.
Now empty, Whirlwind the garage had a small office and a bathroom, but the rest was mostly storage space. Crews have already completed the interior demolition and plumbing work will be carried out soon. Silverstein hopes to have the entire project completed by early December.
Whirlwind’s storefront, which used to house the A.A. Gilchrist plumbing and hardware store, won’t be undergoing any changes. Silverstein purchased the building, which he said is over a century old, and its unattached garage from a member of the Gilchrist family.
The company’s restoration of the storefront won Whirlwind a historic preservation award from the Village of Oak Park last year. Whirlwind’s design approach for its café was to preserve the building’s history by emphasizing certain elements, such as the tile floors and lighting, while modernizing it.