Each month, the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce spotlights a different business from our neighborhood. This month we get to know Will Goodwin and the crew at Spoken Cafe on Montrose Avenue. 

Can you tell us a little about your shop and what you offer?

Spoken is a neighborhood cafe under the Montrose Brown Line Station that offers coffee, espresso, bagels, pastries, soups, salads, and sandwiches- all made with local seasonal ingredients, most of which are made in-house.

How long have you been in the neighborhood?

The cafe has been here for 23 years, I have been here for 16 of those. Sido and I have owned the cafe for 3 1/2 years, and we’ve existed as “Spoken” for about a year and a half. We have created a place where people can feel at home, where they can have an identity and be known by name.

What inspired you to start your business?

It was entirely accidental. I had a side job building custom bikes to make ends meet and that began to pan out into something quite fun and profitable. I began saving for something as yet unidentified until the previous owner of the cafe offered it to me. I knew I liked cooking and feeding people and had been running restaurants or involved in the industry for many years at this point. I was hesitant and honestly terrified at first but everything turned out just fine once I realized that we had an amazing audience of neighborhood customers who would support us and stand behind us if we just treated them well and provided a quality product.

Is there something people find surprising about Spoken Cafe? Are they any particularly usual favorites on your menu?

The amount of product made by scratch in house: all of the cream cheeses, hummus, nearly 30 different jams and preserves, nearly 25-30 pickled items, our own fermented items like sour kraut, all of our flavor syrups, all of our sauces and condiments. A strange summer favorite is the “Black Betty.” Thats two shots of espresso on ice with your choice of local rootbeer.

What about the business are you most proud of?

My staff and the experience they provide our customers, their dedication to quality product and their compassion and desire to help those who cannot help themselves. We also try to do our part to give back: we have a 1% price point built into everything for donations to local nonprofits.

 

Do your employees have any special talents not related to the cafe?

Many of our staff are talented in many ways but to list a few: We employ two professional opera singers (one is now performing at the Lyric Opera the other is part of an improv comedy opera troupe called Forte’ Chicago), one DJ, a photographer and documentary film maker (who has a feature length documentary made called Posterboys or: The Art Of Mobile Recording), one drummer and an incredibly talented pottery artist who also makes all our cool special signs. I build custom bikes and Sido is a custom picture framer.

On top of that, two of our staff members run a small non profit called {she crew} together which I will in no way attempt to paraphrase a description of. I will instead lift their own description from their Facebook page.”{she crew} is a six-week summer program for girls in Chicago, ages 12 to 14, to engage in a multi-disciplinary journaling workshop that culminates in a theatrical performance written entirely by the participants. We are investigating the question of what it is to be a woman, what womanhood is, and how we see ourselves in relation to it, all through multiple forms of artistic expression. Questions and writing prompts include topics of: womanhood and identity, women in relation to family and community, career, and the physical body. The program also includes special guests that are performers/writers/educators/directors to lead the group in projects, discussions, or just to be present and add their perspectives as female professionals. This program will be free for participants, as well as provide free public transit cards, and a meal. We believe that preparing and eating a meal together will help us to build a community that welcomes conversation and individual creative expression.”

What’s the best thing about being a member of the Greater Ravenswood Chamber? Have you got a favorite neighborhood event?

Connections, to other chamber members and their wealth of knowledge. Answers, to important questions that are vital to our business’ growth. Events, for all of us to gather and show off our skills! Of course my favorite of those is Taste of Ravenswood.

Any changes you’d like to see in Ravenswood over the next ten years?

Fewer empty storefronts, more patios, and another community garden. That almost always empty parking lot at Wilson and Ravenswood would be perfect.

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?

The general bent to try anything new. Chicago people remind me of home in Louisiana in that they will try anything at least once!

If you could throw a parade, what kind of parade would it be?

A food based parade like hotdogs!! In Louisiana we have festivals for everything like: rice, strawberries, sugarcane, crawfish… At those festivals we have parades. Hot Dog Parade!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A Marine Biologist… Chemistry kicked me in the pants so that wasn’t gonna happen.

For more from Will and Spoken Cafe, visit spokenchicago.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Spoken Cafe
1812 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 769-2000

Hours
Open Monday- Friday 6:30 AM – 3:30 PM
Open Saturday 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Open Sunday 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM