Melissa Stinson, the owner of Everybody’s Busy, started her coffee concept five years ago when she returned to her native city of Chicago, after a stint in New York. In November, Everybody’s Busy transitioned from a long-term pop-up specialty coffee shop to appointment-only coffee — or, as Stinson puts it, “a cultured experience with a side of coffee.”
From her new Pilsen studio at Mana Contemporary, she’s curated a visual space that offers a creative experience with a cup of coffee, with Stinson herself as the main attraction. During your appointment, Stinson will make you a 10-ounce coffee drink within an intimate space of 420 square feet. She serves her coffee brand, Everybody’s Busy/Onyx, which is a two-year running collaboration with Onyx Coffee Lab, an Arkansas based roastery and cafe.
InsideHook: What exactly is “appointment coffee”? And what can a guest expect you to architect in terms of your cultural installations?
Melissa Stinson: I’m using coffee as a conduit; it’s like performance art. The space is a destination filled with music, books, art, and whatever I’ll be creating, who you are and what you want to talk about on any given day. Appointments can be booked in advance on my website, an experience where you get me and ten ounces of coffee for ten dollars.
You’re a multi-generational Chicagoan. Can you share how you came to doing business in Chicago?
My grandmother and my mother are from Chicago. I grew up on the South Side. There’s always been a duality for me here. I listened to classical music, ’80s New Wave, to Naive, and I worked in a lot of different industries, including being a costumer in the wardrobe department for film and TV, including Showtime’s The Chi. It was bound to happen, that I would create something here, and that it would be a cross-breed of culture.
After living in New York for some time, I needed to come home – I’m also a caregiver for my mother. There are a lot of layers to being in Chicago; I wanted to create something here that I loved, that would also help me cope with being here. I didn’t write a plan, and I didn’t know anything about coffee. I knew my flavor palette, got a pour-over coffee set, a grinder, and I learned how to make coffee.
What is your personal coffee ritual?
I like morning coffee, a pour over — eight to ten ounces — using a Hario V60. My preferred origins are Ethiopia, Brazil, Mexico, and Kenya. I brew from four different roasters: the UK’s Process Coffee, Houston, Texas’s Three Keys Coffee, the Netherlands’ Manhattan Coffee Roasters, and Durham, North Carolina’s Little Waves Coffee Roasters.
What is your approach to making coffee?
I like all kinds of coffee, so I’m not going to drink the same coffee every day — there’s too much coffee out here to explore to be doing that, the same way there’s too much music out here to listen to the same artist. With Everybody’s Busy, the question was, How do I make coffee and music important? I knew that there were other people like me that wanted to trust the coffee, the water, the brown sugar, the music, and the decibels. All these things are intentional and an experience. What I offer is me saying, ‘Hey, this cup, you can trust..’
The pop-up has pivoted to appointment-only coffee at Mana Contemporary in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Can you tell us about the transition and what spurred the brand evolving into this more intimate experience?
I always planned to pivot. Everybody’s Busy is about me, it’s an offering of myself — it’s my house, and it’s what I say. I always wanted to be a creative agency, so now appointment coffee is about service, consistency, and putting your phone down. If you want what everyone else has, you can go there. Here, it’s small menus, specific milks. There’s no sugars or syrups. I can have about five people at a time because of Covid-19. It’s about the coffee, the taste, and your moment with what I’m going to make you. The coffee will change, but it will be good because it’s from me, and I’m going to be authentic, straight hip-hop — black forever, a woman forever.
Below, Melissa’s picks for kindred spots in Chicago — establishments that offer vital portals to the city’s cultural scene.
2701 S. Eleanor St.
A true gem located around the corner from my studio. Great food and the drinks feel personal. Great way to end or begin the night!
1239 W. 18th Street
Clean and minimalist style dining. Small portions with big flavor, plus great after-dinner coffee.
I love chairs. Mid-century style. This spot is filled with views and great seating for drinking and dreaming.
Muse Coffee Studio
747 S. Western Ave.
A place I go when I’m not making coffee. Warm vibes. Like you’re hanging out at your brother’s house. (I am an only child.)
5139 N. Damen Ave.
Cultured. Great selection of rotating coffee brands from around the country. Another spot I go to on my off day.
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