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Pilsen coffee shop brings neighborhood together

Cafe Jumping Bean
Pilsen’s Cafe Jumping Bean, 1439 W. 18th Street

Café Jumping Bean is vibrantly colorful, with art all over its walls, chairs and tables. The smell of freshly brewed coffee – Café Jumping Bean’s own unique blend – lingers in the air.

Located on the corner of 18th and Bishop streets, Café Jumping Bean has been serving the Pilsen community and surrounding areas for 19 years.

Eleazar Delgado, the café’s owner, says his employees are part of the reason his business has been successful. “I give a lot of credit to my employees. We never hire on experience, we hire on the character of the person and what that can bring to the café,” he said.

Delgado, who lives in the McKinley Park neighborhood, said the idea for the café came about in 1993.

“I used to hang out in Pilsen all the time with different artists and there was always a need of a place to go and have a cup of coffee, to talk and just hang out. There was nothing like that in Pilsen. Those existed in the North Side,” he said.

Café Jumping Bean was one of Pilsen’s first coffeehouses/art galleries. It opened to the public on Jan. 3, 1994.

“Something like this wasn’t around in the neighborhood; it was all taquerias and panaderias, bakeries. Sandwiches were something new to the neighborhood back in ’94. So we decided to offer introduce a menu that was a little different,” said Delgado.

Delgado said his clientele has changed tremendously. “Before it was primarily just the Latino community. Now we serve a wider array of customers.”

Delgado said Café Jumping Bean hosts a mix of people. “All cultures are here and age groups. From your grammar school kids to your grandparents; from teachers to police officers and construction workers. We serve everybody here.”

Elizabeth Rodriguez makes the drive to Café Jumping Bean from Little Village. She said she’s being a customer since 1997. Rodriguez said she continues to come back for the great sandwiches.

Delgado has seen the community evolve. “We’ve seen kids grow up, they started coming when they were in grammar school, now they’re off in college and they are still customers. They still come back.”

Maria Meza has been customer of the café for nearly 15 years. Meza said it’s a good place to talk and relax. She said she likes the service and the atmosphere.

“We have a unique approach. We really get to know our customers. After you’ve been here a few times, we know your drink. So if you are in a hurry, especially those morning customers, we already have their orders,” said Delgado.  “It’s about getting to know the customer and offering what they want. “

Delgado said Café Jumping Bean Café brings the people of Pilsen together.

“Fifty percent of the customers we serve are from this neighborhood. This is a place where people meet, people rely on this café being here. The hours of operation, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., are because of what the community needs.”

Delgado said the neighborhood feels safe to walk around due to the many businesses that have opened in Pilsen and the diverse community. “Art shops, cafes, people running, walking their dogs. Before you didn’t see this as much. The community has grown and more events are created. It attracts a lot of people from different areas.”

Jumping Bean’s menu is just as diverse as its clientele and the Pilsen neighborhood. From soups, salads, gourmet sandwiches to a variety of fresh pastries and a full espresso bar that offers both coffee and non-coffee specialties.

Delgado said the top selling item is the regular house coffee. “Hands down, it’s just the best. The coffee is one thing we focused on when we opened up the cafe, everything else in the menu was going to go around it.”

Delgado said he came up with Café Jumping Bean’s own unique house blend. “It’s a three-bean blend. We wanted it to have a unique taste — not just a Columbian or a Mexican coffee, we wanted to mix it up.”

Delgado has been committed to giving back to his community. “You just don’t take a neighborhood, you have to give back. “

Café Jumping Bean has been supporting organizations in the Pilsen community like the local library, schools and churches.

Delgado also supports the local artists. “Eighty percent of the art that hangs here comes from local artists.  We have occasionally housed outside artists, from outside the neighborhood and outside of the state, even outside the country.”

Café Jumping Bean has exhibited artists from Uruguay and Mexico, Panama and Columbia.  “We switch the artwork every five weeks. The café collects zero commission from the art work that sells here. It’s all for the artist, they’re allowed to have an opening night reception to show off their work to their friends and family,” said Delgado.

Delgado said there aren’t any plans to expand Café Jumping Bean. “Like someone once told me, is better to have a small place that’s always filled all the time, than a big place that’s empty. “

Café Jumping Bean will be celebrating 20 years of business next January, and Delgado couldn’t be happier. “I come in every day with a smile on my face. It’s been a good ride.”

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