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Saturday, June 15, 2024
The Observer

Quincy's brings coffee, music and community to South Bend

Quincy's Café is at a crossroads.

Tucked away in a plaza at the corner of Edison Road and Route 23, Quincy's overlooks the main corridors between Mishawaka and downtown South Bend.

But Ismail Egilmez, the owner of Quincy's, will explain that his café is also at a cultural crossroads: the intersection of fast-paced modernity and a simpler, quieter era. Quincy's looks the part of a modern café with its variety of coffee roasts and its purposefully quirky décor, but at its heart is a quaint community gathering place for music, art and conversation.

"Everything's instant now," said Egilmez, who runs Quincy's alongside his father, Philip, a Notre Dame alum. "This is 'come in and take a breath.' I still have things like Wi-Fi, of course. But we serve all our drinks in mugs. We actually have conversations with our guests." (As if to subconsciously prove his point, Egilmez almost always refers to people in Quincy's as "guests" or "visitors" rather than "customers.")

Egilmez is a South Bend native, but Quincy's has Chicago roots. In 1998, Ismail moved from South Bend to Chicago, where he studied oil painting and guitar at Columbia College. Between visiting musicians and locally-produced art on the café's walls, Ismail's interests in art and folk music give Quincy's color and character.

Even the café's name is a Chicago throwback. Ismail named the café after Quincy, an historic Victorian 'L' stop in Chicago's Loop that dates to 1897, replete with stained oak woodwork, historical reproduction signs and, like Quincy's Café, period advertisements and artwork.

"I like Victorian, Art Deco and 50's-60's décor," Egilmez said, sporting a tidy fedora. "It never goes out of style. It is a little kitschier - I try not to be stuck on one theme but to have all of it."

That eclectic spirit permeates the café. Although Quincy's is quiet midweek, it draws a range of customers: old and young, college students and locals, professors and farmers. On Sundays, it can get crowded with students who take advantage of Quincy's internet access and caffeine.

"It's a nice creole of different people who wouldn't ordinarily all be together," Egilmez said.

The furniture is diverse, but the café's openness and its warm incandescent lighting give it the ethos of a living room. There is a student-friendly table for studying, complete with an essential power strip for all the visiting MacBooks, by the door. Near the counter, a comfortable blue couch sits next to a coffee table featuring books of art. A small stage has just enough room for a four-man band. But the café's spirit emanates from its simple wooden tables and purposefully mismatched wooden chairs, as if to invite group discussion around a shared meal.

"People tell me, 'This is something we really needed, that we don't have many venues like this,'" Egilmez said.

Of course, a café lives by its coffee, and here Quincy's shines. Egilmez brews Intelligentsia Coffee, a direct-trade brand popular in Chicago.

The coffee prices are on par with Starbucks. A cup costs between two and five dollars, putting Quincy's on the upscale end of the coffee spectrum. But with far more options and nifty orange mugs, Quincy's wins on flavor and value. (The honey latte in particular is absurdly tasty.)

"Business has been good," Egilmez said. "Over the first year, I have no complaints. We have a really good response on the coffee and the venue. It's grown every month since we've opened."

Quincy's offers a range of soups, salads and sandwiches. A few are eye-catching: the Spin Melt, featuring sautéed spinach and plenty of Swiss cheese, is a terrific vegetarian choice. Egilmez is proud that Quincy's sources most of its produce from local food distributors in the Midwest, including bread from a bakery in Muskegon, Mich.

"It's almost as if we had everything here," he said. "Everything is fresh. We have lots of options: gluten-free, vegan, wraps."

Egilmez also takes great pride in the café's music scene, which features local and traveling musicians. Quincy's is crowded with eager listeners on weekend evenings. The Moore Brothers, a popular four-man blues band from Goshen, Ind., often play on Saturdays and Sundays.

"I really try to focus on roots music as much as possible," he said. "That includes folk, jazz, blues, and what you could call indie-folk or contemporary indie," like modern day folk-music darlings Mumford and Sons.

But regardless of Quincy's success as a home for music, Ismail says he will still aim to keep his coffee shop "just a little kitschy café with something going on" for the people around it.

"Even though the economy's not perfect, you can always afford a cup of coffee," he said. "People will always be searching for a place of community and good conversation."