Cafe on the Park opens Saturday in Wheaton Library
A much-anticipated cafe is opening this weekend in the Wheaton Public Library, nearly a year after it was first announced.
Café on the Park is on the western end of the building, with doors leading into the main library space and out into Adams Park. Pete Leonard, owner of the Wheaton-based I Have A Bean Coffee, is running the business with John Persson, a friend with more than a decade of experience in food service.
"We're really excited to be able to open," Leonard said. "It's taken longer than all of us thought it might, but it's turned out just fine."
The cafe is having two celebrations this week. A ribbon cutting will be held at 3 p.m. Friday with the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Wheaton Public Library and city officials.
Saturday will mark the first full day of operation, with doors opening at 7 a.m. A grand opening celebration at 11 a.m. will include another ribbon cutting, a book signing with local author James Rizza, live acoustic music and half-price samples of drink and food offerings.
Library Director Betsy Adamowski said ironing out a service agreement and construction delays slowed down progress on the cafe, but "in the long run it worked out really well."
"We're just really excited to get this off the ground," she said. "It's going to be a new adventure."
Library officials agreed to move forward with the cafe idea after reviewing the results of a community needs assessment in 2014 that showed residents wanted a place to grab coffee or a snack in the library. Last March, the board approved spending nearly $83,000 to renovate the library's "Parkview Commons" space, which was always intended to be a cafe.
The cafe will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.
Leonard said he hired a local dietitian to design the sandwiches, which include a roasted veggie sandwich with goat cheese, a turkey wrap with dill aioli, a honeybaked ham and smoked cheese sandwich on herbed ciabatta and Wheaton Meat Company chicken salad on a croissant.
"We love local business and it's all about a local community kind of feel," Leonard said. "I think having it as part of the library is perfect."
Leonard hired six employees to work in the shop, including some Wheaton College students, who have been undergoing training all week.
"We're really going after making coffee approachable and just a fun, friendly atmosphere," he said. "We want this to be a place that's very serious about what we do from a quality standpoint, but in an approachable way."
The cafe has partnered with Wheaton College's music program to offer students, staff members and local bands a new venue to perform. There are also plans to offer classes in the cafe about tea, coffee, brewing and espresso equipment. Once the weather warms, tables with umbrellas that overlook Adams Park will be available for patrons to use, too.
Leonard said he senses a lot of excitement in the community about the cafe, with "a parade of interested parties putting their hands up on the glass to peek in every day."
"We've heard nothing but, 'Boy, we can't wait for this to open,'" he said.