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Berwyn's Uno Cafe serves it up at sunrise

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 6:20 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:52 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Joe Sinopoli - jsinopoli@shawmedia.com)
Every day, rain or shine, you'll find chess master Mike Tsesis of Naperville at the cafe offering to teach the game to those who want to learn or playing a game with a fellow chess fan. The 72-year-old former engineer from Latvia calls it the only morning chess club in Illinois.

BERWYN – It’s 5 a.m.; you stumble out of the house to catch the train into the city with no time to spare. Don’t worry: the coffee’s already on at Uno Cafe.

Located in the Harlem Avenue Metra Train Station in Berwyn, the brother and sister team of Jim and Mary Ferraro can be found serving a fresh pot from 5 to 11 a.m., five days a week. Commuters can be found lining up for coffee, tea, muffins cookies, or even a bowl of oatmeal, every morning to get fortified for the working day.

The Ferraro’s, along with another brother, Tony, opened the cafe in April after the former business in the space, Harlem Espresso, closed last year.

“This is something my brother Tony always dreamed about, having a little cafe,” Mary said.

When Tony found out the building, owned by the city of Berwyn, was available, he jumped at the chance, she said.

Jim is a former parts truck driver who lives in Joliet. Mary, a resident of Downers Grove, splits her time between the cafe and Cantata Adult Life & Senior Services, formerly known as the British Home in Brookfield, where she is a housekeeper. Both grew up in Berwyn.

The Ferraros have come to know their regular customers well enough to call them friends – and friends enough that when someone doesn’t show up for a few days in a row, they begin to worry.

There’s Ed, a customer who bicycles in every morning from his Midway Airport neighborhood, has an orange juice and boards the train. There’s Wes, a customer who has to have his breakfast sandwich every morning.

“We know everything about the people here,” Jim said. “I’ve seen a lot of friends who come in that I haven’t seen for years.”

A great deal of their customers are Riverside residents, he said.

And as far as customers go, those of Uno Cafe are a devoted bunch. Take Mike Tsesis of Naperville, who makes the trip to Berwyn, specifically to Uno, every day. The 72-year-old former engineer from Latvia has pressing business at the cafe: He formed a chess club that also doubles as a chess school for those willing to learn the game.

“This is the only morning chess club in Illinois,” Tsesis said with sly smile. He’s been playing chess since he was a teenager, about 60 years now, and you could set your watch to 9:30 a.m. when he walks in, chess board in hand.

“In my old age I should have some activity,” he said. “If I stay home, I get depressed. I need to be around people.”

Opening the business has been a learning experience for Mary and Jim – neither of the two had any experience running a business before.

“It’s not as easy as you think,” Jim said. “There’s a learning curve.”

But the art of business isn’t just about ordering supplies, figuring out profit margins and paying the bills: Customer service is important as well. For that, Mary said they were born ready.

“It just came naturally,” she said.

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