Longtime Wilmette café and coffee roaster Link's Sweet Bean closed its doors in February—but owner Lourdes Link isn’t going far.
Link has partnered with local investor Marcus Lemonis, who owns Rose’s Wheat-Free Bakery in Evanston, to bring her coffee roasting business to the store at 2901 Central St.
Already, Link has moved her 5-kilogram coffee roaster to the second floor of Rose’s, and she’s starting the process of opening up the second floor to provide an additional, more lounge-like seating space for customers beyond the tables and chairs on the first floor.
“We have glass windows, so people can watch me roast and can watch Rose do the decorating for the baking,” she says.
Link works full-time as an IT manager, and says she had been considering closing her Wilmette coffee shop to spend more time with her family for at least a year. In order to carve out time to roast the beans she sold at her café and to local businesses, Link often worked from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. at the coffee shop, then went to work at her full-time job.
“My husband was sick, and that’s when I started thinking about it, and now my daughter is going off to college,” she says. “I just feel like I missed all those years.”
The idea of joining forces with Rose's Wheat-Free Bakery began to percolate after Link's friend, Marcus Lemonis, invested in the bakery last December. At the time, owner Rose O’Carroll had believed she would have to close her struggling business on Christmas Eve, and posted a letter to customers on her website to say goodbye. Then, at the last minute, Lemonis stepped up with a $200,000 investment.
The idea of combining her business with Rose’s Wheat-Free Bakery seemed like a perfect match when it came up in conversation with Lemonis, Link says. Rose's was already selling coffee, and Link had been considering closing the cafe anyway. Joining forces will take some of the behind-the-scenes work off her plate and allow her to spend more time with her family, she says.
“That’s just one less thing I have to think about—the actual management,” she says.
Lemonis, Link and O’Caroll are still working out the details of the partnership and its structure, but Link said she expects to begin selling her coffee at Rose’s Wheat-Free Bakery within the month.
“We’re between two Starbucks,” Link says of the Central Street bakery and cafe. “Our goal is to be able to get some of that coffee traffic. Where it was mostly people coming in for baked goods and having coffee, I’d like that to work the other way around as well. I want coffee to be as much a part of Rose’s as the baking is part of Rose’s.”
Link hopes to bring some of her loyal customers from Wilmette to Evanston, and also hopes to bring in some new customers from who may have patronized Casteel Coffee, which recently closed and was also located on Central Street. Once the second floor space is set up, Link plans to offer coffee tasting classes as she did in Wilmette, pairing different varieties of coffee with Rose’s desserts.
“It’s the perfect opportunity because her desserts are so good,” Link said. “I’m hoping it will be a big hit.”