It could be 7 a.m. or 4 p.m. It could be windy and pouring or hot and humid at 98 degrees. Whatever the situation, you can count one thing: Nothing will keep the Blackbird Café regulars from their beloved coffee shop.
Blackbird Café is filled with Northwest Indiana business owners and employees, Valparaiso University students, and community members stopping in for a meal or treat. It’s relaxed, cool environment invites people to just sit and chat, read, or finish up with work. Again, whatever the situation, you can count on another thing: Seeing your fellow friends at Blackbird Cafe.
We at Ideas in Motion Media are definitely regulars at the downtown shop, so we thought we would touch on the special relationship community members have with the owners, Mary Koselke and Dan Cook, along with the staff at the café.
IIMM Founder Chris Mahlmann enjoys Blackbird Café so much he treats his employees with coffee and treats every so often.
“No doubt I love the food in Blackbird, and the coffee is the fuel that kick starts my day and is awesome,” he said. “The people though is why Blackbird will forever by my home. Not because there is a certain kind of people there – actually the opposite. Because all kinds of people are at Blackbird, and as soon as you walk in the door you can tell that they all feel welcome.”
He sticks to a large Blackbird Blend coffee, and loaves of their fresh baked bread and more often in the summer will he pick the strawberry-banana smoothie for the day.
Darlene Cohn of D. Cohn Communications starts every day with a trip to Blackbird. Again, the food is great, she said, but seeing her community members and good friend, Mary, makes her day.
Darlene is a fan of the Sexy Oatmeal, a blend of oats, dried fruit, nuts, and a generous amount of brown sugar. “It is probably just me and probably one other person who still orders this,” she claims, laughing. “Everything is so good. They have a killer yogurt parfait.”
Her top beverage is a mocha latte and no matter what time of day, she goes for the one of the delicious breakfast sandwiches.
Darlene and Mary have been friends even before the café was opened, and sees the place as more than a coffee shop.
“You go in and you know each other,” Darlene said. “You’re guaranteed a friendly face and a person to talk to. That’s special. You don’t get that everywhere.”
Though she doesn’t call herself a regular, Cathy Brown-Brown of Valpo Velvet said she usually stops in for a café au lait, and just a few days ago, had the cobb salad, which was “just amazing.”
Cathy is in the same boat, being able to see so many community members and business owners stop by her shop and enjoy a treat and talk, so she understands the importance of a place like Blackbird Café in a community.
“I love the atmosphere and it is a pleasure to see other business owners meeting there to discuss business and life,” she said. “I 100 percent believe in supporting local businesses and they support our business as well.
Valpo is lucky to have Blackbird in the community!”
Jenny Craig-Brown of IIMM, likes her coffee strong and simple and goes for an Americano, but when it comes to food, she has to take a minute to decide which one of her favorites to pick for the day.
Her favorite lunch item, agreeing with Cathy, is the “incredible” cobb salad and a popular breakfast pick is the lox bagel. When it comes to dessert, anything from the freshly baked goods case is delicious and dangerous… but if you want to make Jenny’s day just get her a crazy cookie!
When Jenny walks into the café, she is greeted with a “Oh… Hey Sally!” from Jack Hines.
“I loved going in and being greeted and seeing all the crew hustling around and yelling names out for orders,” she said. “There are always ton of great people visiting, great food baking, and smiles to greet you at Blackbird!”
Jesse Harper of Jesse Bob Harper Productions, uses Blackbird Café for tetherball team meetings and of course, to pick up a great coffee and food, he said.
“They have created a community atmosphere, which is unparalleled in Valpo,” Harper said. “It is a great place to eat, drink, and meet old friends and teammates and make new friends.”
RG Skadberg of CCSK Law said, "Our office often refers to BBC as our (CCSK Law's) second office. This time of year, it is great place to grab a meal (or two throughout the day - not at the same time), work outside, and see a wide-variety of people I know and some I do not know yet. There is a highly diverse group of people there at any given time. The staff know many of the regulars by name and our regular order. I have my go-to items - iced mocha, yogurt parfait, roasted veggie sandwich, Uncle Walt's Chili, etc. - I eat there a lot! It is easy place to go, because I know I am going to get something good to eat, often engage in a good conversation, as well as see folks to say 'Hi.' BBC is a great part of our downtown community. Mary, Dan, and their staff make the experience a good one and one that I continue to come back to."
These are just some of the regulars using Blackbird Café as a second home. So, when we turned to one of the owners, Mary, to ask about her regulars, we realized that these customers are more than just fans.
“Seeing regular customers every day is like seeing good friends, and many have become close friends to us,” she explained. “We get to know what is going on not just in their lives, but also in their families' lives.”
Every day, it is not just the regular “Hello, how are you?” between the customer and staff, but instead is “How is your wife?” “When does Peyton start IU?”
“I am as likely to see young students talking fast about what they are doing to do in the next five minutes as I am to see retirees reminiscing what they did back in their high school days 50 years ago,” Chris added. “At one table, you will find a group of pastors sharing devotion and learning, at another you’ll find some attorneys talking shop and current events, and at the next is two grandma’s trading stories about their pride and joy.”
It is being amidst the people and the noises and the hustle and bustle of the busy day, that when you’re there, you’re as comfortable and peaceful as if you were sitting at home, he explained.
“From a business perspective, seeing regular customers also reminds us why we are here, which is to please our customers and take care of them,” Mary said. “If they come in often, I know we are doing a good job of caring for them. We actually worry when we don’t see people for a few days. Many tell us when they are going on vacation because we worry if we don't see them!”
No matter the time, no matter the weather, Mary, Dan and their staff at Blackbird Café are always there to save you; save you from hunger, loneliness, and lack of caffeine! They are the friendly, neighborhood local coffee shop, so swing into the café today!