A wooden counter separates a small kitchen from the intimate seating area where customers are sprawled with notebooks and iced coffees. Soft indie music and fragrant coffee beans warm the shop’s air. Ellipsis Coffeehouse co-owner Mike Waszkowski crafts espresso shots for intricate lattes while his co-owner and wife Janine Waszkowski sets out her newest selection of gourmet cookies.
The coffee shop, located at 1259 W. Devon Ave., has rebranded under its newest Waszkowski owners. The couple announced their purchase of Ellipsis on April 22 through Instagram. Since then, the pair have taken on multiple sustainable initiatives.
The Waszkowskis moved back to Chicago after 10 years in Los Angeles, where their love for the environment took flight, according to Janine Waszkowski.
“Sustainability is really important, especially for people like us who really love the outdoors and want that to still be around,” Janine Waszkowski said.
On Oct. 18, Ellipsis announced a transition from plastic and paper cups to reusable and compostable coffee cups on their Instagram.
North America was the second-largest producer of single-use plastics on a global scale in 2015, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Overall, 141 million tons of packaging waste were generated in 2015.
Ellipsis now partners with Forever Ware, a Minneapolis-based startup that helps businesses offer an alternative to single-use cups. Forever Ware’s stainless steel drink tumblers can be used for hot and cold beverages, according to Forever Ware’s website.
To get their drink in a reusable cup, customers pay a $5 deposit when ordering at Ellipsis to receive their beverage in a Forever Ware tumbler, according to Janine Waszkowski. The next time they visit Ellipsis, the cup can be reused or returned in exchange for their deposit.
Forever Ware co-founder Nolan Singroy said the company hopes to partner with more businesses near Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. Singroy also said he is interested in partnering with the university itself.
“The initiative is to reduce waste from landfills,” Singroy said. “From the perspective of a student, it can reduce waste on campus.”
Loyola senior and Ellipsis barista Maris Staley said most Forever Ware users are older customers rather than students. The psychology major said she completes around three transactions with the reusable tumblers each four-hour shift she works.
“They’re kind of a newer addition, so most people don’t know we have them yet,” Staley said.
Janine Waszkowski said more coffee shops in Chicago need to invest in Forever Ware in order for it to reach its full potential.
“The more people that get on it, the easier it is for everybody,” Janine Waszkowski said.
Forever Ware cups can be exchanged at other participating cafés across Chicago, which are listed on Forever Ware’s website.
In October, in addition to the Forever Ware tumblers, Ellipsis switched to compostable hot coffee cups, straws and takeout containers. Janine Waszkowski said Ellipsis faces no additional cost, as one compostable cup costs the same as one paper cup and paper sleeve.
In addition, Ellipsis will soon partner with Chicago-based compost pickup service WasteNot to divert food waste away from landfills.
WasteNot CEO and 2020 Loyola alum Liam Donnelly said composting in restaurants is highly important, since 60% to 80% of waste produced in restaurants is compostable compared with 30% of household waste, citing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The environmental benefit from a single café like Ellipsis or a restaurant composting can easily be equivalent to several households,” Donnelly said.
Most of Ellipsis’s food items are made in-house or at their off-site kitchen and all food waste will be composted, according to Janine Waszkowski.
Janine Waszkowski said Ellipsis sources ingredients from local markets and uses in-season produce. All flavor syrups are made in-house using vegan ingredients.
Janine Waszkowski’s second business “Bake Me Wild” is another ingredient in the business’s new recipe. Established in 2020, the company’s quarter-pound “Sequoia Cookies” are produced in Chicago and sold at Ellipsis.
“Food just inspires me,” Janine Waszkowski said. “It really excites me to be able to layer flavors. Feeding people is my love language.”
Neither Waszkowski said they expected to purchase a coffee shop so soon after their move to Chicago last September, but Ellipsis went up for sale and they decided to act.
“We just ran with it,” Janine Waszkowski said. She had previously managed coffee shops in Los Angeles, but Ellipsis is the first one of her own.
The changes have been well received by customers, according to Mike Waszkowski. Ellipsis regular Owen Davies, 54, said he uses his Forever Ware cup two to three times a week.
“I want it to be successful,” the Rogers Park resident said.
Davies said the university has the potential to encourage reusable materials in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as on campus.
“There’s a whole opportunity to have a Rambler community about something like this, to require reuse and not single-use,” Davies said.