Ellipsis Coffeehouse Owners Spill The Beans on Café Rebrand

Mike and Janine Waskowski, owners of Ellipsis Coffeehouse in Rogers Park, have initiated the rebranding of their business, which will be renamed Rivers and Roads Cafe.

When Mike and Janine Waszkowski purchased Ellipsis Coffeehouse (1259 W. Devon Ave.) in April, they knew they needed to turn the quiet coffee shop into a lively communal space. Now, the couple has announced plans to rebrand their business to reflect their love for nature and community building.

“Ellipsis in itself is great, but it’s not our story,” Janine Waszkowski, 30, said. 

The Waszkowskis, both Chicago natives, purchased Ellipsis after moving back to Chicago from Los Angeles, where they settled for 10 years after graduating from the University of Illinois. The couple finally made Edgewater their new home in September 2021.

While in LA, Janine Waszkowski switched her job as a pastry chef to managing cafés in LA, where she fell in love with the community’s engagement with the shops. When they decided to move back to Chicago, their journey towards fostering their own café community began.

Riley Vance, a barista and shift lead at Ellipsis, said the Waszkowskis revitalized the space when they purchased it. Vance worked at Ellipsis from 2018-2019 before coming back to work for the Waszkowskis in August.

“I’m really excited to see how they’re going to update the space, make it a little more modern and make it more them,” Vance, 28, said. 

Janine Waszkowski said the couple always planned on renaming and rebranding. They officially announced the rebrand mid-January but initiated it after receiving a Chicago Recovery Grant in November, which is being used to help fund a portion of the rebrand.

The Chicago Recovery Grants are intended for small businesses recovering from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Janine Waszkowski. She said Ellipsis was one of 31 businesses chosen to receive the grant out of roughly 600 applicants.

The new name, Rivers and Roads Cafe, aligns with the nature theme of her baking business called Bake Me Wild, which are sold in Ellipsis and shipped nationwide.

The cafe will take on a nature theme with earthy tones and comforting decor. (Ella Govrik | The Phoenix)

Janine Waszkowski said Mike Waszkowski suggested the name when the song “Rivers and Roads” by The Head And The Heart played while they were in the car. The couple’s love for the song, as well as the title’s correlation to Chicago’s infrastructure and river, made the name seem like the obvious choice.

“It just felt right,” Janine Waszkowski said. “As soon as he said it we were like, ‘Yes, that’s it.’”

Nature and the outdoors has played a major role in the Waszkowskis’ plans to rebrand. Along with their love for the café communities, their time in LA also sparked their love of nature and unplugging from their phones, Janine Waszkowski said. She said LA’s access to the beach and mountains for activities such as surfing and skiing made the city a wonderful place to live.

“Chicago is beautiful in its own way,” Janine Waszkowski said. “It’s my favorite city in the world. But a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do that.”

In order to bring those elements of the outdoors to Ellipsis, the Waszkowskis are changing various aspects of the café’s interior to reflect natural scenery. 

Janine Waszkowski said the color scheme will consist of earth tones such as tans and greens, and they are working with a woodworking contractor to make a personalized national park sign which will welcome customers into the cafe. An electric fireplace heater will be placed in the corner of the cafe to add to the space’s coziness during the colder months.

“It’s going to be a lot of different decor, but we’re not going to lean too much into it,” Janine Waszkowski said. “Enough that it’s all these little pops of national parks without it being too gaudy.” 

In addition to physical changes to the cafe, Janine Waszkowski said they also plan to implement community-driven events that align with the rebrand. She said they are hoping to offer sign-up sheets for nature-based activities, like hiking in the spring or summer in order to bring the Loyola community and local residents together.

According to Vance, who graduated from Loyola in 2017, the rebrand brings opportunity for employees as well, such as learning baking skills from Janine Waszkowski.

“There’s a lot of room for growth for, I think, all of the employees,” Vance said. “There’s room for people to take on more hours, take on more responsibility.”

Vance said she’s heard positive feedback from customers who are looking forward to seeing the Waszkowskis make the space more personal to them, since Ellipsis’ brand was more geared toward the previous owners. Vance also said she believes customers are in favor of the café’s focus on sustainability.

Ellipsis has taken on multiple initiatives to promote sustainability, such as working with WasteNot Compost, a local composting company and Forever Ware, a reusable cup service, The Phoenix previously reported. Janine Waszkowski said their sustainability initiatives have been very successful and they plan to continue these efforts as part of the rebrand.

“I feel like it just really goes back to our goals this entire time of being able to create a space that both Loyola students and local residents can come and still commingle,” she said. “At the end of the day, it just comes down to it being very community driven.”

Janine Waszkowski said they are still working with the city but plan to have completed the rebrand within the next two to three months.

Ella Govrik

Ella Govrik