This summer, Chicagoans will be found drinking coffee on patios, and one of those patios has distinct purple chairs—and some surprises beyond its doorway. Purple Llama opened recently on Division Street in Wicker Park, owned by Joel and Shannon Petrick with Kevin Lardner at the helm of the coffee program. Purple Llama combines the pleasures of coffee and records, for those who appreciate either—or both.
Kevin Lardner began his journey in coffee at Store Street Espresso, a London shop down the road from the British Museum, while earning his graduate degree. Joel Petrick, a friend of Lardner’s brother, had been thinking of opening a record shop for new and reissued prints. Over a late night drink in Shoreditch during a visit from Joel Petrick, the two decided to open a shop in Chicago that combined the two ideas.
A purple La Marzocco Linea PB and Nuova Simonelli Mythos One grace Purple Llama’s steel bar, which is surrounded by pale walls angling any viewer’s gaze to one end of the room filled with records framed with wood panelling. The space was designed by Danny Wicke, and the bar by Manny Garcia, both of Wheeler Kearns. “The great thing about Danny and Manny was they understood the needs of a coffee bar,” Lardner said. “The back of the bar is intended to be undulating, flowing with the space. The bar is opposite, inviting attention to it as a central focus.”
Bar design is influenced by Lardner’s experiences in London, where table service is common in coffee culture. Lardner also names Heart Coffee of Portland and G&B of Los Angeles as influences in the areas of quality control and consistency—which convinced Lardner that filter coffee is best made with an automatic brewer, on which Purple Llama serves its single-origin coffees.
Beyond the coffee space, Purple Llama’s record nook features records from the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Fugazi, which are spun on the shop’s player for customers to sample while enjoying coffee. Petrick, when first choosing a round of selections, wanted a clean and reframed viewpoint on record buying for those with a stack under their turntable. With a focus on new pressings, their hope is for customers to exchange sifting through boxes from antique shops for a more accessible experience. “The same way we rotate coffee on bar to keep things exciting, we keep records on a constant rotation,” says Petrick. “You see new things every couple days.”
“We want to present our music and coffee while not shoving them down people’s throats,” adds Lardner. Accessibility is the name of the game for Purple Llama, with evidence of the principle at play in the no-nonsense bar layout, record selection, and menu. Find Counter Culture Coffee offerings, along with a regular rotation of guest roasters, joined by Song Tea & Ceramics of San Francisco for black, green, and oolong teas. Pastries from nearby Floriole Bakery finish any visit to the shop.
Joel Petrick sees his shop’s specialties as both particularly well-suited to the neighborhood. “I’d like to participate in the excitement that is a very musically oriented community,” he says, “where most of the residents have an intrinsic excitement for music. I think that translates into the coffee we serve. Because of their taste, they’ve sought out music unique to them. The same is with specialty coffee—if someone is into this, they’ve chosen to dive deep into what their interests are.”
“For our customers, it leads to becoming an audiophile or enjoying the ritual of coffee,” continues Petrick. “That ceremony is the same from what you get from a record. You’re sitting down for that extra time to enjoy it. That tactile participation in your interests and what makes you happy.”
Settled into Wicker Park with their ritual of coffees and records, Petrick, Lardner, and the Purple Llama team are reframing the way people see their drinks and music. Lovers of either may find the best of both worlds in a unique space, with its sincere, passionate staff—and no sparing of purple.
Matt Scheffer is a writer and photographer based in Chicago. This is Matt Scheffer’s first feature for Sprudge.