Change is bittersweet at Link’s
Lourdes Link, owner of Link's Sweet Bean, pours a cup of coffee at the shop. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
WHO: Lourdes Link
WHERE: Link’s Sweet Bean, 1141 Greenleaf Ave. Wilmette
WHAT: Closing after eight years
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:14AM
WILMETTE — Whoever said a change is as good as a rest has never had to move a 500-pound coffee roaster. Lourdes Link, on the other hand, will be doing so very soon.
When she does move the roaster to its new home in Evanston, and closes the doors at Link’s Sweet Bean, 1141 Greenleaf Ave., the many friends she has made as proprietor of the homey little coffee house and roasting emporium will have to deal with change as well. And they’ll probably feel as bittersweet about it as Link herself.
“I love this whole community,” she said last week. “Wilmette is very loyal to its businesses. And what I’m losing really is the interaction with all these people.”
Link, known as “Lu” to many of her regulars, announced earlier this month that she would close the shop on Feb. 23. The impressive yellow-and-silver roaster will disappear; as will the fresh-baked cookies and banana bread, and the colorful menu of drinks (several of which are named after regular customers.)
The Northfield resident will continue her successful Link’s North Shore wholesale coffee business, roasting beans from around the world every morning at 4 a.m. and delivering them to outlets, including some local Whole Foods and Fresh Market. In fact, she is partnering with Evanston-based entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis to do so, and moving her roasting operations to that community.
But eight years after she set up shop with little more than a love of coffee and some research into how to roast beans — know-how that’s grown exponentially more sophisticated, as she now teaches coffee-tasting and visits coffee growers around the globe — her life has transformed.
The medical information technology work she once could do from a back office at Link’s now requires far more off-site attention. She also wants to spend more time with her husband, now that he’s on the mend from recent health problems, as well as with her high school-bound son and college-bound daughter.
“It was just time to do this, but it is a little sad,” Link said. Sister Corie Guiang, who has helped staff Link’s Sweet Bean for years along with Link’s other sister Mary Parker and mom Amelia Guiang, agreed.
“We get up and wonder ‘How are we going to start our day?’” she said, after serving Wilmette customer Amy Koplow.
Koplow wondered where she was going to find as pleasant a place to sip coffee or surf the net during her daughter’s ballet lesson.
Steady customer Greg Patrick of Evanston agreed. He regularly spends full days at Link’s, when his home-based office is being cleaned, he said, “and Lourdes and Corie and Mary are great people. I think they go out of their way to make customers feel at home; they’re friendly and welcoming.”
Patrick looked around him and said he hoped someone similar would move in to the space. He might find other spaces to work out of while his office is being cleaned, but none as friendly — or as free of corporate chain store monotony — as Link’s.
Link hopes to find a successor to take over the space, but doesn’t know if that will happen. Last Thursday she concentrated instead on saying goodbye to customer, many of who have become fast friends.
“When I put out the word in email and on our Facebook page we got a lot of responses, and I hope they come in to say goodbye.”
Link said she’s going to keep the store’s Facebook page operating for a while. That way members of the community she built near the corner of Greenleaf and Poplar Drive will be able to keep in touch, and their bittersweet change will be, perhaps, a bit more sweet.