Oak Park’s Buzz Cafe began as an idea to serve morning commuters with coffee and muffins, but 15 years later it’s grown into a community hub, where all things local prevail and the breadth of food and events always keeps the cafe abuzz.
Laura Maychruk founded Buzz Cafe in 1998 after moving to Oak Park. She was stabbed at her home in Washington, D.C., and at that time decided she wanted to start a family. After moving to Oak Park, she raised a family and started Buzz Cafe with a few modest goals: offer good food and cater to the community, especially families.
Now the customers at Buzz are treated like family, and people from all walks come there to dine and participate in the countless activities hosted there, either through Buzz or by independent groups.
“We built our business on regulars,” general manager Alana Lebeau said. “That personal 1-on-1 attention. We know your name, your children’s names, your order.”
The cafe has been around for 15 of the 20 years since the Arts District was created, and it’s a perfect fit. It brought a restaurant option when that was lacking, and it serves as a gallery of sorts, with painted chairs and tables as well as local artists’ work hanging on the walls.
“Laura’s always had the vision to support local everything,” Lebeau said. “The art is just one of them. It’s very important to keep our products local.”
Buzz uses as much locally sourced food as possible, Lebeau said, and as also featured local brands such as Metropolis Coffee, B True Bakery and Twisted Cookie.
The local feel of Buzz Cafe is also realized through the events hosted there. Lebeau recalled a benefit concert for a cafe manager whose van flipped over while she was on tour with her band. The house was packed. Then again, it’s packed many days and nights. There’s been lectures, Election Night therapy, live music and more.
“We’re open to anything and everything community-based,” Lebeau said. “Laura doesn’t say no as long as you’re in the community.”
In September, Buzz Cafe will introduce its Book Club Night, the first of which will feature Oak Park author E.C. Diskin, who will discuss her debut book The Green Line.
There are certain places one can walk into and immediately get a sense of the community they’re in, and Buzz Cafe is without a doubt one of those places. Whether it’s the buzz from the coffee (or the BYOB nights) or the buzz of the community, the cafe has become an essential meeting place for locals over the last 15 years.
“People like the homely feel,” Lebeau said. “Come in, kick up, move around the furniture and make yourself comfortable.”