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Coffee shop opens on Judson’s Elgin campus

Local residents BenjamGlunz (left) ElgKyle PearsAlgonquco-owners Jerry's Cafe JudsCollege. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media

Local residents Benjamin Glunz (left) of Elgin and Kyle Pearson of Algonquin, co-owners of Jerry's Cafe at Judson College. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 26, 2013 6:08AM

ELGIN — Ben Glunz and Kyle Pearson had spent countless hours studying at coffee shops off-campus while students at Judson University.

So they saw, Glunz said, “not only the need for a coffee shop, but also for additional community catalysts on the campus, where students could really hang out and have a place to call their own.”

That’s why the two Judson graduates decided this school year to open Jerry’s Café — at long last, a coffee shop on the university campus, 1151 N. State St. (Route 31).

There had been one coffee shop actually in the same space where Jerry’s now is, nestled next to the Draewell Gallery inside the Harm A. Weber Academic Building, said Glunz, 24, of Elgin. But it had opened and closed “very soon after that,” and that was about four years ago, he said.

Students had been trying to get something going there for “a while,” said Pearson, 24, of Algonquin.

Both had full-time jobs after graduation, so, as Glunz saw it, they each could write a check to the university “like a good alumnus,” or they could invest that money back into their alma mater themselves. Inspired by the university’s first World Leaders Forum in 2011, which Pearson especially was involved in as a senior that year, they decided to invest.

The two had roomed together at Judson — a decision that “forever changed the course of the immediate future,” Pearson said — and later, they served together as part of the Judson Student Organization.

So they knew they worked well together and had complementary skill sets. Pearson had double-majored in finance and accounting, and Glunz had gotten a master’s degree in architecture.

The idea of “sustainable giving” appealed to both, Glunz said. Jerry’s now employs 12 students as baristas, including two as managers, he said.

So did the idea of taking “every effort to do things as well as we possibly could,” he said.

The two coffee lovers invested in a Rancilio espresso machine and pored over beans, grinds, roasts and brews with a ethically-sourced, fair-trade roaster in Crystal Lake to come up with a special Jerry’s blend, both for its drip coffee and espresso drinks. That’s a darker espresso blend because “students need to know their coffee is working for them,” joked fourth-year architecture student Patrick Linder, making drinks Wednesday night at the cafe.

“By doing that, we created a self-sustaining model that, no matter how tough times get, we’ll be here,” Glunz said.

And — while “whatever you do, wherever you go, there will always, always, always will be naysayers,” Pearson said — the idea of nearly round-the-clock coffee just down the hall from the Benjamin P. Browne Library has appealed to students.

More than 300 people lined up out the door and down the street, all along the Weber Academic Building to the guardhouse at the entrance to the campus for the grand opening in August — “like a club,” Glunz said.

And the café already has the support of incoming President Gene Crume Jr., who made it his first stop on campus to meet students earlier this week. Later, Crume tweeted, “It’s official — @JerrysCafe is my favorite coffee shop in the U.S. Probably the Milky Way as well!”

For more information about Jerry’s Cafe, including the hours it is open, visit

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