Seven years ago, Cafe YO! co-founder David Meyers began roasting 100% fair trade organic coffee beans in a friend’s garage and sold them to buy shoes and sandwiches, and keep the snow out of the chimney. Proceeds from coffee sales have raised money for local charities ranging from Chicago Women’s Health Center to West Town Bikes to the Latino Union and Radio Populares.

This endeavor became known as Resistance Coffee, now sold and delivered around Chicago. Several years ago, this quirky success sparked the interest of two other Chicagoans who took up the same model, roasting and selling coffee locally. The trio became known as the Chicago Coffee Confederation, a loose alliance of simpatico souls roasting in early-morning alleys and chilly garages, sharing artistic and creative resources to further their businesses.

In 2010 two of these roasters, David Meyers of Resistance Coffee and Michael McSherry of Grinderman, started working closely with the Latino Union in the creation of a larger project, called Café Chicago (CafeChicago.org). By 2011, Café Chicago had grown into the city’s first immigrant-run worker-owned cooperative coffee roaster, toasting up fair trade organic beans grown by the women of La FEM cooperative and funding the immigrant rights work of the Latino Union (latinounion.org). Day laborers who'd been standing on corners braving bitter cold and extreme heat and boredom waiting for jobs to turn up, were now taking on all aspects of a coffee-roasting business. Not for profit, but for people and community.

Now the gang is up to something yet again. The next phase of this movement, which is largely about connecting with youth and working together to grow community, focuses on economic justice and the leveraging of our resources and talents for people and the environment, not profit.

It’s a coffee venture.

It's Café YO!

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