Wheaton Public Library restoring full hours, with new vendor for cafe
The Wheaton Public Library will restore full hours of operation next month and plans to reopen a cafe with a new coffee shop vendor in another step toward normalcy.
Patrons now have a 30-minute time limit to browse and check out books through the library's "grab-and-go" service. But starting June 1, visitors will get full, in-person access to the library's collections, just in time to dive into a summer reading list.
The library will extend its Friday hours to 7 p.m., stay open on Sundays and eliminate overdue fines. Second-floor study rooms and early childhood collections will be open. In-person outdoor programming will be offered. And patrons will still be able to pick up books curbside.
Plans also are brewing for Altiro Coffee Shop to fill the cafe space inside the library and overlooking Adams Park. The owners of Altiro Latin Fusion -- a restaurant group with locations in downtown Wheaton, Aurora and Geneva -- will run the cafe previously occupied by I Have a Bean for the last four years.
The hope is for Altiro to start serving library patrons in conjunction with the full reopening on June 1.
"I can't even imagine having us opening the library fully at the end of this pandemic with no coffee cafe," library Director Betsy Adamowski said. "That just was not something I wanted to have happen, so this is very exciting to us."
The library chose the Altiro owners because of their experience with their Aurora coffee shop location, Adamowski said. The menu and hours are still being finalized, but the city council has approved a three-year service agreement with Altiro in which the vendor will pay a $500 monthly concession fee to the city.
"They did a good job in their presentation with highlighting their vision of what the library's cafe should consist of, which is a snack shop type of atmosphere with high-end coffee drinks as well as other menu items that would fit the library clientele," Adamowski said.
The cafe debuted in 2016 with its own outside entrance on the western end of the building. Library officials agreed to move forward with the concept after reviewing the results of an analysis that showed patrons wanted a place to grab a cup of hot coffee or a snack in the library.
"Having a cafe in the library has been a game-changer for us," Adamowski said. "It is making the library a destination."
Meanwhile, I Have a Bean, a Wheaton-based company that employs formerly incarcerated people, continues to sell coffee and tea out of its roasting plant on Childs Street and on Saturdays at the downtown Wheaton French Market.
Founder Pete Leonard said I Have a Bean was forced to close the library's "Café on the Park" for one primary reason: COVID-19.
"During much of last year, the library was completely closed, and when it reopened it was for grab-and-go books only with no direct access to the cafe," he said. "That eliminated 60% to 80% of the foot traffic to the cafe. The cafe was unable to sustain itself with such a drastic drop in business."
Although the city "very kindly" suspended a requirement for a monthly operators fee, other entities did not, Leonard said. I Have a Bean, for instance, still had to pay for insurance on cafe equipment each month, a monthly payroll account fee and other costs.
"We did not have enough cash in the bank to keep paying those fees. We were really sad to have to close," Leonard said.
But he's delighted that a new operator will take over the space.
"The community loved Café On The Park," he said.