Kusanya Cafe

Today at Chicago Ideas, we’re celebrating Kusanya Cafe, the Englewood cafe whose goal is bigger than coffee.  Opened in 2012, the cafe believes that “by decreasing isolation and providing the setting for the sharing of resources, we can begin to change the face of our neighborhood.”  

In an e-mail interview, Executive Director Phillip Sipka shared the cafe’s Englewood roots, counseled us all to look for the “doers” amongst us and let us in what he thinks is one of the city’s best kept secrets. And make sure to follow Kusanya Cafe’s Instagram takeover on @chicagoideas for a day in the life of the cafe.

Kusanya Cafe, located in Englewood, serves as a community meeting space.
Why did you choose Chicago?

We chose Chicago, and Englewood specifically, because as residents, we wanted to create solutions to the problems we face.  We have been overwhelmed at the support we have received.  Chicago appreciates great food and ideas, and as a small social entrepreneurial venture we have found that people across the city have gone out of their way to patronize, financially give and volunteer time so that our vision can thrive.  

The Kusanya Cafe is only a small piece of the reconstruction of our community, but we believe that having a social gathering space that is open to all is essential for a healthy neighborhood.  By providing, we believe that we are contributing to the betterment of our neighborhood and our city.

If you could go back in time before you started this project and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself?
At every turn, look for the “doers”.  Everyone is prepared to offer advice; not everyone is willing to pitch in and lend a hand, especially when and where it’s needed!  Keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll find them.


What are your next steps?
The Kusanya Cafe is excited about growing our current cafe in Englewood, while also moving into other related creative endeavors.  Our next project is to rehab the vacant commercial space next to the cafe and build a larger commercial kitchen and roastery for roasting our own coffee.  We are excited about the possibility of designing and producing products in Englewood that can be sold outside of the neighborhood, as a way of contributing to our neighborhood’s economy.  We also hire local apprentices and are excited to provide opportunities for entrepreneurship within our apprenticeship program.

We want to be in the know!  Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.
IGrow Chicago has been a great local partner for us.  They provide yoga classes for youth in neighborhood schools, as well as at their soon-to-be-opened Peace House in Englewood.  They have also worked to promote health in many forms.  They are the type of organization that we love to have in our neighborhood because they are passionate about what they do, but they are also willing and generous partners for the type of collaborations that benefit other organizations and the greater community. 

Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.