[J]onny Boucher wants coffee to wake people up in more than one way.
In May, he opened the doors to Sip of Hope Coffee Bar in Chicago’s Logan Square. Opening day drew quite a crowd, including Illinois State Senator Dick Durbin. Why all the fuss for a new coffee shop in a neighborhood full of them? Sip of Hope is coffee with a unique mission: break down the stigma surrounding mental health and do something to proactively prevent suicide.
Boucher lost family members and a boss to suicide. So many people don’t know what to do when faced with that much tragedy, but Boucher decided to do something about it. In 2011, he founded Hope for the Day, a charity dedicated to suicide education and prevention. It is this charity that led to the birth of the Sip of Hope coffee blend and the bricks-and-mortar café in Logan Square.
“It’s my theory about baristas, bartenders, and barbers. We see these people every day, sometimes more than our own friends,” Boucher says. “Talking about mental health can be as easy as getting a cup of coffee.”
In 2013, Boucher talked with Dark Matter Coffee in Chicago and founder Jesse Diaz. Together, they created the Sip of Hope blend under the Dark Matter brand. Hope for the Day got the blend on the shelves in Whole Foods and focused on doing outreach.
Finding a location
Keeping his barista-bartender-barber theory in mind, Boucher started putting together a business plan for a physical location in 2016. By October 2017, the charity had launched a funding campaign, which raised more than $150,000 in funding as of May.
Before Sip of Hope became a reality, Boucher was faced with a frustrating search for a location. In the end, he found the ideal spot. Logan Square’s grocery co-op the Dill Pickle was picking up and moving to a bigger location, leaving behind an open space right across the street from the neighborhood’s library.
To Boucher, it felt right to take over the community-funded co-op’s former space. Plus, the somewhat off-the-beaten path location on Fullerton Avenue gave the café a little distance from the neighborhood’s main drag, which has a booming coffee business. “Logan Square is known for coffee, but almost all of that is on Milwaukee Avenue,” he says.
Mental Health Resources
The location is allowing Sip of Hope to carve out a niche with a little breathing room between all of the neighborhood’s other coffee spots, but it also presents the perfect opportunity for more outreach. Not only will you find a wall of educational mental health resources in the café, Sip of Hope also hosts free mental health training right across the street at the library. Patrons can come in for coffee and take advantage of the resources on hand. If they want to talk to someone, everyone who works at the café is trained in Mental Health First Aid, a program designed to give people the tools to recognize the struggles of mental illness.
Sip of Hope’s menu features its own signature blend, a rotating Dark Matter blend, and Dark Matter’s Chocolate City iced coffee blend on tap. The Sip of Hope blend is still sold at Whole Foods, as well as online and at other Dark Matter cafés. “Everyone’s life has been affected by mental health,” says Boucher. “For $5 you can get a great cup of coffee and contribute to a cause that is near and dear.”