Brewbike takes a hike.
The student-run cafe announced its immediate closure in a message to employees in early August.
The company cited an “extremely challenging macro-environment”, the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an inability to complete its latest funding round due to market pressure on investors as factors in its closure.
“I had no idea Brewbike was at any risk for this sort of thing,” said sophomore and incoming campus CEO McCormick. Rachel Ruddy said in an email Sunday.
Co-founded in 2015 by Lucas Philips (SESP ’19) and Brammy Geduld (SESP ’19), Brewbike operated 11 outlets nationwide and employed more than 20 North West students in the shop located in the university library’s Café Bergson.
Initially launched as a coffee shop on wheels, it expanded to brick-and-mortar outlets after receiving funding from The Garage programs, venture capitalists and angel investors. His list of investments included Morningstar, Inc. founder and Chicago Fire FC owner Joe Mansueto. and the Chicago Booth Angels Network.
Student workers said they were taken aback by the sudden closure, given the popularity and optimism of Brewbike expressed in recent company statements.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Aru Singh, McCormick’s sophomore and former barista. “We felt Brewbike was doing very well, at least on our campus.”
Again this year, the NU outpost has partnered with organizations such as Mayfest Productions, The Dolphin Show, STITCH Magazine and Northwestern Recreation to offer limited-edition drinks, in-store merchandise and profit shares.
According to Ruddy, who worked as both a barista and in operations, it was not unusual for Brewbike to have queues, especially during exam season.
She didn’t have exact customer numbers, but as a member of the operations team, she said there was no shortage. Items like cups and syrups often had to be replaced, she said.
And although the cafe had competitors brewing on campus, it was the only such store located in the university library.
“While it may not have been as popular as Starbucks or Dunkin, it had loyal customers. A lot of people really liked the Main coffee corner,” said Marlene Alanis, a sophomore in communications, who worked as a barista during Winter Quarter.
Their optimism was not just at the local level.
In an interview in January with The Daily, National CEO Sierra Bloodgood said Brewbike was “grateful to be at this stage of growth”. In a December press release, the company said it had sold more than a quarter million cups of coffee and paid more than $700,000 in student salaries since its inception seven years ago. It also shared plans to expand into other markets this year after consolidating more than $3 million in bridge financing.
However, like many companies nationwide, Brewbike has faced pressure from recent market downturns, record inflation and supply chain issues. The national inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June and the consumer price index for coffee rose 3.5% according to the July report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
No future details about its closure were included in the company-wide announcement, but Bloodgood and President Randy Paris circulated a Google form for students that workers could fill out if interested. through other employment opportunities on their respective campuses.
NU has not released plans for the now vacant space. Bloodgood and Paris could not be reached for comment.
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