ELMHURST – Brewpoint Coffee was an idea born in a hotel room in the Philippines. And one year after opening its doors to the Elmhurst community, Melissa Villanueva can say her dream is now a reality.
In 2014, Villanueva, 27, of Elmhurst quit her corporate job as the director of recruitment and development at a financial firm because she wanted to do something she was passionate about.
She decided to go to the Philippines to assist in the relief efforts after a recent typhoon devastated the island. It was there Villanueva realized she wanted to create a space in her hometown where people could dream and the community could gather.
“While I was there, the vision for a community-centered business really, really took hold of me, and I think coffee is a great avenue into that,” Villanueva said.
The inspiration to open a coffee shop came unexpectedly while Villanueva was taking shelter from the Philippines’ extreme tropical conditions.
“I was helping at a youth camp and it was miserably hot to the point that I couldn’t think about anything except for how hot I was and how hungry I was,” Villanueva said. “I was staying in a little hotel, and in the hotel room I was comfortable enough that my mind was starting to work again.”
Villanueva said she allowed herself to dream in the hotel room. She realized that to dream a person needs to have an adequate space to think.
“I was so focused on my physical needs that I couldn’t dream, I couldn’t imagine, or do anything else,” Villanueva said. “So wanting to provide spaces where people didn’t have to worry about anything else – just a place to think, to dream, to imagine, and creating ambiances that could really flow into that – became something that was very prominent.”
Villanueva wasted no time when she returned to the United States. She started searching for an espresso machine on Craigslist and instead found a coffee shop that was for sale in Elmhurst.
“It took about a month to convince my boyfriend at the time, Angelo, that we should do this because we were fairly serious, fairly new in our relationship, but I knew that making this decision would affect the both of us, so it had to be more of a collaborative decision,” Villanueva said.
Angelo Sepulveda, 31, of Elmhurst had been dating Villanueva for six months when she came to him with the idea of buying Enlightened Cafe, a coffee shop in Elmhurst that had been in business for 10 months.
They agreed, and Villanueva purchased the site, touching it up with $2,000 and help from donations and volunteers. Brewpoint Coffee opened in September 2014.
“I put out a bunch of different names, and I liked Brewpoint, and I looked it up and the only other Brewpoint was in the Philippines where I had just come from, so it was kind of like, ‘This is it, this is the name,’” Villanueva said.
One year later, Brewpoint Coffee has grown from one to 10 employees and its sales have quadrupled. According to Villanueva, about 200 people come in the coffee shop on an average day. Additionally, the couple’s small business is so successful they are considering opening a second location.
And if opening a coffee shop wasn’t hectic enough, Villanueva and Sepulveda got married four months after they started Brewpoint Coffee.
“It was all kind of at the same time. It was a very busy couple of months,” Villanueva said. “I would say that I tend to like things faster, but this was much faster than what was normal for me. What gives me peace about it is that I don’t feel that I forced anything, like everything seemed to align at the right time and it seemed like the right decision.”
As Villanueva, a Bartlett native, integrates into the community, she continually tries to foster one inside the coffee shop. Her idea was to create a space for gathering, and that is what she looks at to measure her success.
“The culture is really important to me. When you talk about success, more than monetarily it really is the culture of our shop that I have the most pride in,” Villanueva said. “At different points in the day – almost every single day – we will have four of our employees who are not working just hanging out together, enjoying the space and having a good time. They feel like it is their own space to hang out, it’s like their home. Having more of that is what I want.”