The Village of Winnetka will have a coffee, please.
The Winnetka Village Council has chosen Tala Coffee over two other proposals to inhabit the long-vacant property at 93 Green Bay Road.
The Village-owned property, which is on the southeast corner of Green Bay Road and Winnetka Avenue, is a “gateway” site into Winnetka and to New Trier High School, said Village President Chris Rintz, adding that Tala’s vision for its development most closely matched that of the village.
“It looked pretty sorry over there for a lot of years,” Rintz said. “In our planning efforts, we really wanted to find somebody who would help anchor a new gateway into the community. … Their vision for the physical improvements of the site were consistent with ours and looked like a really special and interesting adaptive reuse of an old gas station.”
At one point a Texaco gas station and service shop, the lot was purchased by the Village of Winnetka in 2001 and primarily leased to nearby auto dealerships for vehicle storage. According to village documents, the rental payments from the dealerships and other groups surpassed the village’s $650,000 purchasing expense.
In 2018, the Village decided to seek developers for the site but chose not to move forward with two proposals in 2020. A year later, the Village again requested proposals for development and selected three — Tala Coffee Roasters, Firecakes Craft Donuts, and Left Coast Food + Juice — to give presentations before the council at a meeting in October 2021.
Rintz said that since the subject property was Village-owned, trustees discussed the three finalists in council executive sessions over the past few months and it took multiple conversations to “build consensus.”
Tala Coffee was reportedly selected as the preferred proposal in February, and Rintz said it was not an easy decision.
“Doing things at the store to give more a sense of community was another big factor in choosing them,” Rintz said. “But we couldn’t have made a bad decision. … Regretfully, we couldn’t give all three the space.”
Tala Coffee was founded in 2017 as a coffee-bean roastery in Libertyville. A year later, the Tala team opened their first cafe in Highwood inside of a decommissioned fire station along Green Bay Road.
Tala’s experience redeveloping an existing building was influential to the council. During the October 2021 council meeting, Tala’s Director of Marketing and Operations Joanna Tong told trustees the business wants to restore the building at 93 Green Bay Road so that it resembles a 1970s gas station, referring to the plans as having a “retro aesthetic.”
“We want to keep that footprint, keep that existing structure, but just reuse and restore as much as we can to, of course, reduce environmental impact,” she said at the time, “as well as just to maintain the historical auto-oriented charm that exists in the Indian Hill District. We think that is a huge draw to this area.”
Tala plans for indoor seating of up to 60 guests with an outdoor-seating component, as well.
At its Highwood cafe, Tala serves its own roasted coffee, as well as traditional coffee drinks, such as espresso, macchiato and lattes. The menu also features speciality drinks that infuse flavors like brown sugar, honey, lavender and cinnamon.
“In addition to our traditional espresso and coffee offerings, we are constantly creating a unique variety of original specialty and seasonal drinks,” Tala’s presentation says. “Our unparalleled training and education program yields excellent baristas who prepare our wide-ranging array of drinks perfectly every time.”
Tala also features a limited food menu with small bites (avocado toast, pudding, smoothie bowls) and pastries (doughnuts, muffins).
Tala Coffee will join Hometown Coffee and Juice, Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks, as coffee shop in Winnetka and off Green Bay Road. The other three shops are located north of Elm Street in downtown Winnetka.
The Village still must review details on Tala’s buildout, but in its presentation, Tala suggested bike racks, additional landscaping and a shared outdoor space with the community. Tala also hopes for parking-lot improvements to relieve traffic increases.
Rintz said the village’s review will ensure the site’s exterior aesthetic — from light posts to signage to brickworks — aligns with the town’s business districts.
“It will be modified to reflect our commercial district standards,” he said.
With plenty of work yet to be done on the administrative side, Tala Coffee does not have a target opening date, Rintz said; though, before the start of the next school year would be ideal, he added.
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