How Brü Started:
A Discussion with Cafe Owner, Alyona Udartseva
By: Becky Yeker
After checking off places on the long list of cafes to eat, drink, and hang out in Wicker Park, I found myself consistently intrigued by Brü, a coffee, juice, and smoothie shop, in the heart of the six corners. After sitting down with Alyona Udartseva, manager and co-owner of Brü, I merely saw a glimpse of the rapid success that Russian-Americans have established here today. Whether it’s Chicago, New York, or Miami, the Russian community has built their reputation in the arts and business. Udartseva infused art, nutrition, quality coffee, and gourmet breakfast & lunch options into a spacious coffee shop in Wicker Park.
- First thing is first, where are you from originally?
- Why did you come to America?
I came to America for the first time at age sixteen as a foreign exchange student. After loving my experience here, I returned to Russia, finished high school, started college at Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service and wrote my first business plan. Then, I made my way to Alaska to finish up my Bachelor’s Degree and then finally found myself in Chicago to work on my Master’s degree.
- What were your initial goals when you got here? After college?
As soon as the opportunity came to follow my dreams, I immediately began implementing my ideas from my original business plan, like focusing on supporting local artists and having a variety of options on the menu.
- When did Brü open?
On March 17th of 2014, Brü officially opened for business.
- Where did you get the ideas to start something like Brü?
I knew I wanted a space that could be a platform for artists in the community and a local spot for people to study and hang out. I wanted to focus on having quality product in an open and inviting space.
- What makes Brü different than all of the other coffee shops in Wicker Park?
I really utilize the space we’re given. Being in a neighborhood filled with many young people, I wanted to divide the sections of the store so that people could comfortably study in one area and people could talk and hang out in another. Brü also has an art gallery that is open for comedy open mics, poetry events, and is rented out to sushi and cupcake making classes. I also like to focus on making sure the staff is welcoming and kind because we are surrounded by so many coffee shops that have intimidating auras and I want to make sure that we don’t come off as pretentious. We also have organic coffee roasted by a Chicago-based company called Sparrow, as well as organic produce and vegetarian and vegan options on both food and drink menus.
- Are any of your ideas with Brü dictated by your Russian background at all?
We have a huge variety of teas and we also have crepes! Coming from a Russian background, art is truly valued, and I wanted to make sure I could do the same here.
- What do you want Brü’s aura to be?
I want it to feel like you are at home sitting on your couch and enjoying a cup of coffee or doing your homework.
Brü is a coffee shop that trumps the stigma of what a coffee shop “should” be. It is the quiet and refreshing space on the hectic and busy Milwaukee Ave., surrounded by various coffee shops that all bring different spices to the neighborhood. What makes Brü different? Brü is lively, open, peaceful, and stress-free. Some customers have even said that they can “feel the happiness from outside.” Udartseva created a coffee shop different from all the rest, confirming that Russians, in fact, do it best.
Photo Credit: Becky Yeker