Kava Diem Organic River Cafe has been open just off the west bank of the Fox River in downtown St. Charles since 2018, and while the ownership has recently changed hands, the new owners say they are not looking to make any drastic changes.
Partners Alex Behrens and Molly Duntemann bought the cafe at 1 W Illinois St. on Sept. 26. Behrens said he and his wife Lynn Greetis will run the day to day operations, while Duntemann serves as an investing partner.
Behrens said they have no plans to change the staff, and have retained the entire kitchen and barista crew, but are looking to hire new additions.
“We’re interested in keeping things as good as they are now, and improving any areas that we see as opportunities,” Behrens said. “We’re not going to be making any radical changes right away. We definitely don’t want to change the quality of ingredients or the nature of the business.”
Behrens also owns Maple Leaf Roasters, a wholesale coffee roasting business that sells globally sourced coffee beans in Roselle, where he and his wife live.
The duo is not new to the coffee business, but this will be their first time operating a cafe, as the Maple Leaf Roasters storefront is strictly a roasting facility, and does not serve brewed coffee.
When they started Maple Leaf Roasters in 2018, both Behrens and Greetis were working full time jobs as engineers, but as business picked up in the last year, Behrens quit his day job to focus on growing the coffee business.
Behrens said the purchase of Kava Diem is their first endeavor to expand their business, and opening a cafe has long been a dream of his. He said they have been looking for a space to build on, but found that the Kava Diem fit perfectly with their vision.
“It’s a great location and great existing business that just has a need for more focus and energy from an owner than it has had in the past‚” Behrens said. “They’ve basically built exactly what we wanted to build, so we get to keep something really good going, and make some improvements on the side.”
Behrens said they chose to buy Kava Diem because of the scenic river front property and the surrounding area. He said the St. Charles community has everything that a coffee shop needs to be successful; beauty, density, foot traffic and a strong business community.
Kava Diem’s previous owner Leah Jenski said the decision to sell the cafe came after her husband was diagnosed with cancer last December, which made it hard for her to travel back and forth between their home in Indianapolis and St. Charles.
Jenski said she hadn’t thought about selling until a broker contacted her this spring saying multiple parties were inquiring about the business.
“They had such a desire to become a part of the community in St. Charles and truly grow their wonderful coffee business that it seemed like the perfect fit to continue on our intention of having a special, warm and inviting community space for our neighbors,” Jenski said. “We are so glad it worked out with them and are beyond excited for their success. They are such a great asset to the community.”
Jenski said she feels a sense of comfort knowing the new owners are such warm and caring people.
“I couldn’t be happier for them or more relieved that the space that we love so much is going to such a wonderful couple,” Jenski said. “We wish them all the success in the world!”
Kava Diem began offering Maple Leaf Roasters coffee even before the ownership changed hands. Behrens said they are currently offering coffee sourced from Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Columbia.
Behrens said while the cafe has historically been focused on food, and while they don’t want to change that, they plan to expand their coffee selection and put more focus on the coffee In the future. Owners also have plans to begin partnering with community bakeries and juice bars to offer more local products.
Behrens said one planned change is to expand hours to open earlier, after many suggestions from community members who said they would like to be able to stop on their ways to work. Current hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Behrens said the plan is to start opening earlier, little-by-little, to see if there is enough demand for it.
Behrens said they have plans for patio improvements in the spring, and in the meantime they will be investing in the business to improve the space. He said one solid plan is to improve the Wi-Fi to make the space more friendly for businesses and those who come in to work.
Owners are also looking to start hosting events in their private room and are welcoming businesses or individuals to rent out the space. He said the private room can be dedicated during or outside of business hours for events like showers, parties and business conferences.