local couple to open Elburn coffee house

By on February 13, 2014

Photo: Tony and Ann Cobb of Elburn recently purchased the building at 2 S. Main St. in Elburn, and plan to open The Corner Grind coffeehouse there in early May. Ann will run the store, and source its coffee beans from Cafe Moto in San Diego. The Cobbs also own Riverview Banquets in Batavia. Courtesy photo

ELBURN—When residents begin enjoying lattes and cappuccinos in downtown Elburn’s first coffeehouse later this spring, they can thank Sage and Dutch—two boxers who love to visit the Elburn Forest Preserve several times a week.

Elburn residents Tony and Ann Cobb recently purchased the building at 2 S. Main St., the former location of the Made from Scratch bakery, after repeatedly passing it as they took their dogs to the preserve.

“The location kind of just called to us,” Tony said. “There’s a park at the end of that block, and I saw the for sale sign and looked in the window.”

When he saw that the building already had a full commercial kitchen—a siren call to a professional chef and the owner of Riverview Banquets in Batavia—he “fell in love” and had to have it.

The couple plans to open a coffeehouse, The Corner Grind, in the location in May.

“What we’re really hoping for is that it becomes Elburn’s coffeehouse, somewhere that you can come in and grab a cup of coffee, a cappuccino or a specialty drink. Everybody’s looking for a place to go in downtown Elburn, so pop in and hang out,” Tony said.

In addition to a full menu of coffee and specialty coffee drinks, The Corner Grind will also serve a variety of baked goods, sandwiches and snacks.

The menu is still being developed, but it will include a variety of scones, cinnamon rolls, muffins, bagels, high-end deli sandwiches, paninis and salads. Desserts like lemon pound cake, shortbread cookies and brownies will also be offered.

“We’re still kind of testing things out, so at this point, the menu’s kind of up in the air,” Tony said.

Both Cobbs are experienced restaurant owners. Tony attended culinary school and worked at several area restaurants, including Mill Race Inn and Chianti’s in Geneva, before opening his own restaurant, Riverview Banquets, in Batavia in 1997, where he’s been hosting weddings and events ever since. Ann joined him soon after, managing the business’s 25 employees and doing all of the baking and desserts.

Right now, the couple is working on developing new recipes for the coffeehouse and is on a quest to develop the perfect dough for the baked goods.

“We don’t want to go too crazy with tons of stuff,” Ann said. “We just want to pick a few things that are really good and get people there for that. It’s all trial and error right now. We’re in the testing phase. We try different recipes and make them, and then we take them from there and tweak them a little bit.”

To keep everything fresh and local, they are sourcing many of their ingredients from local farmer’s markets, she said.

Though the coffeehouse preparation is now in full swing, with a tentative opening date of early May, the Cobbs didn’t initially plan to open a store at all.

Tony wanted the commercial kitchen in order to expand Riverview’s catering business further west; the storefront was just a bonus area they planned on renting out.

Yet the more they thought about it, the more the storefront seemed like an irresistible opportunity for a new business venture.

“We started kicking ideas around,” Ann said. “I said to my husband, ‘You know what Elburn really needs?’ And he said ‘a coffeehouse.’ And I said, ‘That’s exactly what I was thinking.’”

With relatives already in the coffee business—Ann’s family owns Cafe Moto, a coffee roasting business in the San Diego area—the idea just seemed like a natural fit.

“I kind of fathom it like this,” Tony said. “Downtown Elburn has pretty much everything you need: a bar scene, a meat market that’s awesome, good food. But downtown, there’s really no place to go to just sit and have a good cup of coffee. It’s not like St. Charles or Geneva; downtown Elburn is its own community. Yet my wife and I, we have to go somewhere else if we want to enjoy a latte.”

Ann will be running the coffeehouse herself, while Tony continues managing Riverview. She’s sourcing the coffee beans from Cafe Moto, which obtains the beans from sustainable farms—many of them Fair Trade certified or organic—and roasts them in small batches to ensure freshness. Though Moto’s coffee beans are a little more expensive, Ann said the difference in quality will be worth it.

“We really want The Corner Grind to become a warm, inviting place,” she said. “We really want it to be a local coffeehouse. We want somewhere for people in Elburn to go, and we think the downtown is looking so nice with Ream’s and all the other businesses. We want to enhance the downtown more.”

Since the Cobbs know how tough the restaurant business can be, they decided having the kitchen pull double duty was the best option.

“The kitchen that’s been put in there (by the previous owner) is totally overkill for a coffeehouse,” Tony said. “We want to use it for some other things to make it worthwhile.”

Photo by Patti Wilk

Photo by Patti Wilk

The dual nature of the business will help make it more financially viable, Ann said.

“We know we’re not going to make millions in the coffee business,” she said. “But we think the catering will help support it. Tony loves the kitchen and is so excited. He just wants to get cooking in there. And honestly, I always loved being in the kitchen, and so I’m excited about it.”

The Corner Grind is tentatively scheduled to launch on May 1. It’ll be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week, and closed on Mondays. The hours may expand, Ann said, if there’s enough demand.