When you think of BrewBike at Northwestern University, the first few things to come to mind are probably grabbing a latte from Café Bergson, or enjoying a cup of cold brew from the bike next to the Rock. What definitely doesn’t come to mind is a shed.
The Shed, as BrewBike employees like to call it, is located down an alley of a side street of Evanston. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from campus, and it’s almost as old as BrewBike itself! The Shed is actually made up of two small garages that BrewBike leases. It’s home to canisters of pressurized gas, a bag of power tools, old promotional material, and more. Honestly, I could write a novel just listing all of the different things you could find there.
The shed was acquired in the summer of 2016, and at first it was just one of the two garages. As Lucas, Eli, and Jake — BrewBike’s founding team — bought the first ever iconic BrewBike bike, they realized that they had nowhere to store it. However, they soon found an ad for the garage space on Craigslist and thought it would be a perfect place.
Getting the shed ready to be usable though was… another story. It had been years since anyone cleaned it, and it was noticeable. It was a long and hard search to find someone who they could hire to clean it out and power wash it, but even when they did, they realized there were no power outlets in the garage. Many many extension cords later, the shed was finally ready to go.
And as the company evolved, the shed followed suit. BrewBike was expanding into Annenberg Hall to open their first indoor coffee kiosk. Lucas began using the shed as his workshop, and he would spend hours in there spray painting signs, cutting wood paneling, and literally building BrewBike with his bare hands. Now that the potential of the shed had been realized, it soon became an operations hub for the company. The garage next to the shed became available for rent, and the shed doubled in size. The Ops Team was now able to park the van somewhere regular, and use the shed to store any gas cans or extra kegerators.
This past winter, as we began shutting down for what we thought would just be an extended spring break due to COVID-19, I was tasked to give the shed the thorough deep clean it deserved, so my friend and I got to work. As we rummaged through the two garage spaces, we found ourselves taking a trip down memory lane. There were flyers promoting BrewBike’s first indoor café in Annenberg Hall next to signs promoting BrewBike’s third and most recent indoor café at Fran’s. My personal favorite was the oversized check and bright red blazer that BrewBike won at Northwestern’s VentureCat 2018 Student Startup Competition (I couldn’t resist posing for a photo).
What I began to realize as I spent my chilly March day there was that the Shed is the physical embodiment of BrewBike’s origin. Not only does it contain so much memorabilia that calls back to key moments in BrewBike’s story, but the inconspicuous exterior actually holds within it the core components of an entire coffee shop company. It’s the perfect metaphor for BrewBike itself. We had humble origins, just an idea in the heads of some college freshman to sell cold brew off of a bike. Little did they know, however, that that idea would not only grow to having multiple locations on Northwestern’s campus, but on multiple college campuses across the country!
Gus Moody is the Campus COO at Northwestern University, where he is a rising junior studying Theatre and Earth and Planetary Sciences. When he’s not driving the BrewBike van around campus, he loves reading comics, watching reality competition TV, and performing as his drag persona Filet Mignon. Follow him on Instagram at @gusmood.