Trez Van Pugh III was never a “cup o’ joe” kind of guy until he started running a coffee shop with a childhood friend 14 years ago.
The opportunity — which Pugh describes as a “fluke” — fueled his now three-cups-of-coffee-a-day habit.
More importantly, the experience motivated him to open Sip & Savor on the South Side.
Pugh left the partnership with his friend in 2011 and opened his first Sip & Savor in Bronzeville, at 528 E. 43rd St. A Hyde Park location, at 5301 S. Hyde Park Blvd., followed three years later.
In January, he opened his third location with much fanfare in the historic Bronzeville’s Rosenwald Courts Apartments, 78 E. 47th St.
Born and raised on the North Side’s Old Town, Pugh was initially unaware that the apartments had an illustrious history as the former residence of such notables as Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Lorraine Hansberry, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens and Quincy Jones.
“Once I started doing my due diligence and research, I had to be in here,” Pugh said. “And the reason it took me almost three years to rehab this [was because] I wanted to do our ancestors proud. I wanted to come up with something so nice that when you walk in here you just feel the warmth, the love … to bring you back to that time [when Bronzeville was the Black Metropolis].”
The youngest of six, Pugh describes himself as his parents’ “oops baby.” He married his high school sweetheart, Lisa, worked full-time at a government agency and began to invest in real estate just as his father had once done.
“When I was a young kid my dad owned property on the South Side in Bronzeville on 43rd. And he would bring me around and that’s when I learned about work ethic,” Pugh said, describing how he helped tidy up and maintain the family property. “After seeing my dad work so hard, I guess by proxy and subconsciously, I wanted to do what he did, [which] was make his own way.”
At Sip & Savor, Pugh has a “where coffee and community meet” philosophy that is centered on what he calls the “five C’s:” a business that’s crisp, clean, classy, consistent and has excellent customer service.
Pugh also said he wants his cafes to feel like an extension of his customers’ homes and that the sophisticated decor encourages them to “stay awhile.”
The traditional coffees, lattes, mochas, blended coffees and smoothies at Sip & Savor are created with fair trade beans from Milwaukee-based Collectivo Coffee Roasters.
The best seller is the “caramel royale latte,” which features two shots of espresso, steamed milk and caramel syrup and is topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle.
The “Mocha Bama” is named after former President Barack Obama.
“There are two shots of espresso, white chocolate for his mom, dark chocolate for his dad, pineapple and coconut for Hawaii,” Pugh said.
The cafe also carries breakfast sandwiches, teas from Stash and Republic of Tea and pastries from Evanston’s JR Dessert Bakery.
David Stovall, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor, recently stopped by the newest Sip & Savor. “He’s [Pugh] always been community-minded. It means a lot he opened here when others may have overlooked the area,” Stovall said.
Customer Kayla Flemmons also comes to the latest Sip & Savor to do work for the nonprofit she’s hired by. “I like to support black-owned businesses … meet people and to network. The local artwork [at the business] makes it pretty special too,” she said.
Despite challenges in running a business, Pugh said owning the coffee shops has been uplifting.
“You know what I like to see? [When] people come in here and are in awe,” Pugh said. “They just don’t believe they’re on 47th or 43rd Street.”
Sip & Savor locations include: 528 E. 43rd and 78 E. 47th in Bronzeville and at 5301 S. Hyde Park Blvd. in Hyde Park. For more information, call (773) 952-4532 or visit https://www.sipandsavorchicago.com