The Chicago location opened in 2010 with a focus on “little beans” ranging from ages 0-6. Its concept is to operate a family café and play space for children where parents can enjoy coffee or a snack while their children engage in supervised play. At the new Evanston location, that concept will expand to include space for “big beans” (ages 5-12) as a secondary market.
Little Beans Café Evanston will have a 3,000-square-foot play area, be open 7 days a week and include drop-in play opportunities. The cafe will serve coffee, tea, muffins, sandwiches, salads and other light fare. It will feature Intelligentsia Coffee, which is roasted in Chicago. Customers will have the option of using a drive-through window to get their morning brew.
With a background in sports, recreation and marketing, Valko will concentrate on the little beans portion of the venture. While Spengler, a self-proclaimed foodie with a business degree, will focus on the café.
To ensure a safe and secure place for young children, parents will check in with their children at a registration desk. A wristband will be issued for admission to play spaces. Café only patrons will not get a wristband and play areas will be off limits.
The largest play space has a camp theme with a tree fort, general store, ranger station, and vet clinic. Another space is the half-court gym, where both little and big beans can enjoy age-appropriate indoor sports. Play spaces for the two age groups are divided by an open area with unique Evanston features, such as a replica of the Grosse Point Lighthouse.
Little Beans will hold two on-site hiring events: the first on Saturday, January 17 and another on Wednesday, January 21. Note: all managerial staff are in place. Candidates looking to work with children must have some childcare experience and former nannies or daycare workers are desired. On the café side, candidates with experience as a barista are preferred. For those staffing the registration desk and performing other customer service duties, a background working with kids is a plus.
According to Valko, they seek to hire some qualified staff from Evanston. “We have reached out to ETHS and Northwestern.” Anyone interested in working at Little Beans can obtain details at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website.
As for drawing customers, “Our marketing radius is all of Evanston and the nearby suburbs of Wilmette, Skokie, Niles and Park Ridge,” Valko said. “Within Chicago, we can service neighborhoods from Andersonville north to Roger Park and West Ridge.”
Little Beans Café is looking into ways to make their business accessible to more local families. “We are partnering with the City of Evanston and District 65 to create a discount card and offer half-price days,” Valko said.
“We hope to be a community space where families can come and spend quality time together.”