Elijah Brewer III, the owner and a major partner for Brewer Coffee and Custard, believes in the power of serving the community with purpose. So, when an opportunity arose to set up a hybrid café for coffee and custard in his hometown, he could not refuse.
“We’re convinced that black folks in that area deserve a high-quality service that one can get on the north side of Chicago,” Brewer said. “We set out to create an environment, a building that reflects high quality.”
Brewer Coffee and Custard opened for business last month in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood. The menu features, among other things, custard, milk shakes, banana splits, affogato and coffee.
The café, by design, is set up with a custard room to allow patrons to see how custard is made. It’s not uncommon for patrons to mistake custard for ice cream, which Brewer said happens at times. “There’s a difference,” he said. “There’s more air in ice cream and less air in custard. Custard is a more visually pleasing product.”
Brewer said the location for his business is not happenstance. “As you walk down 79thStreet in either direction, you would see that there are very few places that have custard,” he said.
Brewer’s parents moved to the Auburn Gresham neighborhood in the mid-1960s. Around that time, they operated a beverage business on the corner of Morgan and 79thStreets.
“My dad, being an entrepreneur—with some help— acquired the property,” Brewer said, referring to the location of Brewer Coffee and Custard. “This property came as part of my parent’s estate.”
Brewer took possession of the property about four years ago, at which point the property was sitting dormant. “My mom left me with a lot of things, but one of the things she left me with was a recipe to make custard,” he said.
Around that time, Brewer started manufacturing custard at home when an idea came to mind to buy a custard machine. “I started to experiment with my mother’s recipe of making custard,” Brewer said. “I made vanilla; I made chocolate, strawberry. I used to circulate it among my friends to give them a sample.”
Brewer said he’s given his idea to open a café since then a lot of careful thought. “I’m going to continue the legacy that my mom and dad had established with these properties,” he said.
Brewer Coffee and Custard has set up shop thanks, in part, to financial assistance provided by one of Chicago’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, which is a tool used by municipalities to spur redevelopment. “79thStreet used to be a thriving commercial area, and I’d like to help resurrect it,” Brewer said. “One of my motivations is to give back to the community in which I grew up.”
Brewer Coffee and Custard is located at 1008 W. 79thStreet and is open seven days per week. For information, visit brewercoffeecustard.com.