The Brewed (2843 N. Milwaukee Ave.), a horror-themed coffee shop that opened last month, has an ironically cheery ambiance.
Owners Nick Mayor, Jason Deuchler and Jen Lemasters created The Brewed with a focus on aesthetics, art and memorabilia – but not gore. Film posters and colorful murals painted by Lemasters cover the walls. The floor is a black and white checkerboard. The coffee bar is purple, and the espresso machine is bright blue.
Mayor and Lemasters opened The Brewed as a companion business to their record and collectibles shop Bric-a-Brac (2845 N. Milwaukee Ave.), which opened at its original location in 2013 at Diversey and Kedzie avenues. Last year, they decided to move the store to a larger location and reserved the neighboring space for what would become The Brewed.
Visitors at the new coffee spot sit and chat over java, tea and snacks, while sunlight pours in through the storefront windows. The Brewed’s theme does not frighten spectators so much as celebrate the creativity of the genre in a social atmosphere.
“That was always the angle that we wanted,” said Mayor, “because it’s personally our style, but also it’s not offensive to someone that may not be into this stuff.”
Collectibles Link Bric-a-Brac And The Brewed
Copious horror memorabilia on display in glass cases around the coffee shop reflect Mayor and Deuchler’s experiences with the genre. One of Deuchler’s first memories associated with horror is of buying a pair of 3D glasses from a convenience store as a kid to watch “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Both Deuchler and Mayor have tattoos featuring the titular creature from that classic film. Deuchler’s childhood Gizmo figurine from the “Gremlins” film series occupies a corner of the shop.
Mayor’s collection stretches much beyond the horror genre, he said. “More than a fan of horror, I’ve always been a collector of stuff,” Mayor said. “Jen and I have been collecting forever. Bric-a-Brac certainly is a nasty enabler of that.”
The two businesses are connected internally, so coffee drinkers can wander in to become record buyers and vice versa.
“It’s been a very symbiotic month so far,” said Mayor. “Bric-a-Brac has always been pretty horror focused. So it’s certainly a natural evolution, I think. For a lot of our existing fan base, it makes sense that we would do something like this.”
Filmmaker David Cronenberg, whose movie “The Brood” inspired the coffe shop’s homophonic name, looks over the cafe from a poster high on the north wall. His endorsement, quoted on The Brewed’s website, came in a New York Times article published last year.
“The lead of the article is [the reporter] saying, ‘Did you hear about this coffee shop in Chicago opening called The Brewed?’” said Mayor. “And he said, ‘That’s great!’”
Mayor, Deuchler and Lemasters, all fans of Cronenberg, said his movies exemplify what The Brewed’s owners love about horror.
“Some of his stuff is just so gnarly to watch, and it’s all legit,” Mayor said. “Practical effects, physical makeup and gore, all that stuff.”
More Fun Than Fright
Along with Halfwit coffee, The Brewed sells sandwiches from Ørkenoy of Humboldt Park and confections from Sugar Moon Bakery (3612 W. Wrightwood Ave.), run by Dina Cimarusti in Logan Square. A cake decorator who moved into the field of special effects makeup, Cimarusti won the seventh season of “Face Off,” a reality TV series that showcased such artists. Just as “Face Off” lacks a scare factor because it honors the making of illusion, The Brewed’s aesthetics ease fright by showcasing the horror genre’s scaffolding and pop culture influence, the shop’s owners said.
“I think, for me, what makes stuff less scary is more of just appreciating the art of the movies,” Mayor said. “Ninety-nine percent of the disturbing imagery in the bulk of the genre is not real. You know that going into it, so you have to watch it and kind of dissect it — no pun intended — from a practical effects angle. That’s why the vintage horror stuff is so much more appealing to me than a lot of the more contemporary stuff. Because so much of that relies on computer graphics and digital after products, whereas back in the day, they couldn’t do that, so you get to see these movies that had these incredibly compelling costume design and makeup effects. Like, how did they do that? Thinking about it like that definitely takes you out of feeling immediate personal threat.”
For a horror veteran, it’s a testament to a movie if it can push through that awareness, Deuchler said.
“You definitely get used to seeing stuff,” said Deuchler. “But I watched something the other night by myself, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m a little spooked right now.’ So you still get freaked out.”
Movie Club Launches In May
The Brewed owners said they’re looking ahead to horror’s major season later in the year, with the pressure on for Halloween. Before that, they will host the first meeting of The Brewed Crew Movie Club with a screening of “The Brood” at Logan Theatre (2646 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on May 25, the anniversary of the film’s release.
“So David Cronenberg, if you’re reading this,” Deuchler said, “come on out. Free coffee.”
The Brewed is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Featured phto: Cases of memorabilia add to the decor. Photo: Francisco Hernandez