Kribi Coffee is spilling into neighboring Oak Park. The coffee company has just purchased Buzz Café, a beloved coffeeshop in the Oak Park Arts District.
The cozy java joint will become Kribi’s third Oak Park location once it’s reopened, but Forest Park’s caffeine fiends need not worry. When it comes to Kribi Coffee, the grass is just as green on both sides of Harlem Avenue.
“Forest Park will always be our home base,” said Gabe Gonzalez, director of marketing at Kribi Coffee.
Conveniently situated on the corner of Madison Street and Circle Avenue, Kribi has become a beloved fixture of Forest Park since the coffee shop opened in 2019. Kribi has recently expanded its flagship’s offerings by turning it into a community gathering spot; the shop’s basement area, called the Ubuntu Lounge, hosts open mic nights, slam poetry events and pop-up art galleries.
While there are no immediate plans to open another Forest Park location, Kribi leadership views its expansion into Oak Park as a natural extension of its Forest Park presence, according to Gonzalez.
“Our mindset is that Forest Park and Oak Park are like sister villages,” Gonzalez said.
That familial mindset is reflective of the Kribi company itself and its decision to purchase Buzz Café at 905 S Lombard Ave. Both coffee shops are family-owned businesses, which resonated with Laura Maychruk, Buzz Café’s founder.
“It’s extremely important for me that Buzz Café continue, and I feel like I’ve placed it in very good hands,” said Maychruk.
After being approached with an offer by Kribi, Maychruk sold the Buzz Cafe to allow her more time to focus on her real estate career. Maychruk is the managing broker of her own real estate brokerage, which she opened earlier this year.
She opened Buzz Café with her husband, Andrew, 25 years ago this month. The couple, on the verge of being empty nesters, felt the time was right to part ways with their café, but the change, she said, is bittersweet.
“We’ve enjoyed a lot of happy years running Buzz Café,” Maychruk said.
Buzz Café has become an anchor in the Oak Park Arts District, which Maychruk helped to grow into a destination location, not for just Oak Park residents but for those in neighboring communities. At the time of the café’s opening, that section of Oak Park carried a reputation for being crime-ridden; now it is one of the most popular neighborhoods of the village, according to Maychruk.
“When I opened the café, it was my opportunity to lift up southeast Oak Park,” she said. “And I feel successful in that in many ways.”
As the new owner, Kribi plans to honor Buzz Café and what it means to its loyal customers, while making some minor tweaks, such as serving Kribi coffee and updating machinery. Kribi is also retaining Buzz Café’s staff.
“We want to be careful to make sure that we give reverence and pay attention to the legacy and community relations that Laura and Buzz Café have amassed over the years,” said Jacques Shalo, the founder of Kribi Coffee.
Shalo is still formulating a transition plan and timeline, but the current plan is to phase the Oak Park Arts District into the Kribi brand. This, according to Shalo, will be done with careful thought to show respect for and give credit to what has been built in southeast Oak Park over the years. When the time comes and a date is chosen, the grand reopening will honor Buzz Café’s 25th anniversary.
There are already two Kribi coffeeshops in Oak Park, one in the historic Boulevard Arcade building at 1033 South Blvd., and the other in the corner of the Albion building, at 149 Forest Ave. The latter location opened in late July. Maychruk is a Kribi fan, particularly of the Forest Park flagship.
“I happen to drive by the corner of Circle and Madison probably twice a day and if you’re stopped at the light, you can smell coffee,” she said. “It’s always like, ‘Wow, this smells great.’”