Today I bring you Tara, the owner and manager of The Grind for our next Profile. This blog series is designed to introduce and learn from other fellow business owners and entrepreneurs. The Grind is our favorite neighborhood coffee shop in Lincoln Square. You will find us in there often, bringing friends to check out their delicious breakfast sandwiches, homemade granola, Sue's bagel with goat cheese or amazing falafel with salad. Good strong coffee, lovely staff, and this is the woman behind it all! Who are you? What do you do? How long have you been doing this?

My name is Tara and I run The Grind.  I've been at it for about three years.

Walk us through your typical work day. Your 9a.m.-5p.m.

If I'm not there by 6:30a.m, I'm late.  So, by 9am, I'm already thinking about lunch!  I try to get in by 6:15 to enjoy an americano in peace and quiet.  We open the door at 6:45 and at that point, we're working on a dozen different tasks.  The scones are in the oven, the scrambled eggs are cooking, and either myself or another barista is callibrating the espresso grinders, setting out the newspaper, watering the garden in back, and setting up the pastry case.   The best part of my job, and it's very important to me, is being present on the café floor, working alongside other baristas and getting to know neighbors.  Deliveries come in daily, dishes are never ending, and since we serve breakfast, lunch & dinner, there's a constant list of food prep.  After an eight hour shift on the floor comes the part of the job that feels like work:  the paperwork, daily banking & bookkeeping, ordering, scheduling...  All that stuff that keeps the business running.  On an efficient day, this is wrapped up by 6:30.   Then back to the café each night to ensure all is set for the next morning. Whew!

What is the thing you enjoy most about your job?

People.  Never have I ever worked in an environment that is carved by such amazingly kind people.  Lincoln Square is home to such a beautiful community.  I could not be doing what I'm doing without them.  It's a blessing to be a part of their lives.

Was there a moment when you knew you were going to begin your own small business? Tell us about it.

I did always think it would be something I'd like to have a go at.  But never did I ever think I'd go it alone.   My older sister and I daydreamed about it growing up--having a cafe of our own.

I never really gave up the daydream, it just shifted shapes.  To help pay off college loans, I picked up hours in coffee shops, restaurants, and catering.  Surprisingly, I started enjoying these part-time jobs more than my full-time touring gig.  After eight years based out of Chicago, but never really knowing Chicago, I just wanted to root myself.  I will say if you are looking for an anchor in life, life as a sole proprietor will definitely keep you in one place.

Besides early mornings, delicious food and amazing coffee... what other hobbies/loves do you have?

My biggest love and most favorite thing about Chicago is the music and theatre scene.  One day I imagine I'll move away from here, so until then, I've made it a point to not let a weekend go by without going to a show. Also, I'm just starting swing dancing lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music.  It's my first class over there and I'm alternately terrified and thrilled.   The other six nights a week, I'm pretty content so long as I get in a nice long walk by the water's edge.

Anything else you'd like to tell us?

I'd like to give thanks to the folks who started The Grind—Jenny, Christian, Bobby, Susan, and also to Mama Sue.  They are beautiful loving neighbors who built such a special place for all of us.  It's been a real honor to try to keep a good thing going.

The Grind is located at 4613 North Lincoln Avenue . Stop in for some coffee and say hello to Tara!

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