Orange Cup Java coffee shop to add new location with indoor seating. Meet the SideHustle

Owners Melany and Scott Baldwin pose for a photo in front of the Orange Cup Java Station location at 1426 N. Henderson St. on Saturday, April 23, 2022.
Jay Redfern
Galesburg Register-Mail

GALESBURG — What do you do when your cup runneth over? The owners of Orange Cup Java Station have a solution.

To meet growing demand, Melany and Scott Baldwin will soon be adding a second location, but unlike the "little box of sunshine" at 1426 N. Henderson St., the new Orange Cup SideHustle on the northwest corner of Main Street and Soangetaha Road will have a sit-down area for customers in addition to a drive-thru.

Orange Cup SideHustle will be located at 2701 E. Main St. in a former filling station building most recently occupied by Galesburg Car Care.

"We were really looking for another spot to put in a double drive through," Melany Baldwin said. "We didn't really want to have a place that was sit down. That's a whole different animal."

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But after being approached about taking over the former car detailing shop, the Baldwins quickly began to see the possibilities. And they've since seen a former two-stall gas station transformed into a coffee shop while on a trip to San Francisco that has them excited about Orange Cup SideHustle.

The mid-century former Shell gas station has vaulted ceilings and large beams. The new location will have glass doors to replace the current garage doors. Patrons would enter at the current front lobby entrance and step down into the former triple bay garage area which will include a large L-shaped barista station and a variety of seating options.

"We’ve been so happy that our customers and community are so eagerly awaiting the opening of our second location which we’re tongue-in-cheek calling the Orange Cup SideHustle," Melany said. "To us, it was endearing to think that the 216 square foot Little Box of Sunshine, known as Orange Cup Java Station, or just Java to many, would be the main event, and the larger space with (with seating) would be its side hustle. But it is."

The Baldwins are working with Streamline Architects from East Moline on the project. They anticipate opening in late July to early-August.

"We had so much customer feedback asking for indoor seating, that we took those dreams to our architect and developed a larger footprint with indoor seating and a barista station that showcases our baristas and their craft," Melany said. "The city of Galesburg and all construction-related entities have been great to work with; we took additional time to open right, one time."

The new Orange Cup SideHustle will be open the same hours has the North Henderson Street location —  6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The Baldwins also recently purchased the former gas station across the street from the future SideHustle and are storing furniture and equipment for the new location there until construction is finished."

What's new at the SideHustle?

A rendering of the interior of the future Orange Cup SideHustle, 2701 E. Main St. in Galesburg. The mid-century former Shell gas station has vaulted ceilings and large beams.

Self-proclaimed coffee fanatics, the Baldwins continually monitor trends in the industry, and have attended coffee expositions in California.

"We've got a couple of things up our sleeve for the Hustle, and we'll be leaning in toward some of the new trends in the coffee world," Scott said. "The 22 to 35 age demographic is looking for a coffee infused with Vitamin A, D, E and F.

"That 22-year-old isn't drinking coffee the way we did. They want something with some healthy advantages to it." 

In addition to some different beverage selections, the new Orange Cup location will be able to offer opportunities to host live music, events and functions.

"We have multiple requests to cater functions," Scott said. "We do Flunk Day. We do homecomings. We do group drinks, etc. etc. Some of that stuff, you just can't take on the road. We don't have a coffee truck, or trailer — yet.  At our new place, we'll have ample space to do that.

"So there will definitely be some things that are unique to the Hustle, in terms of some product. But No. 1 will be the atmosphere." 

Coffee craze! The more, the merrier

Orange Cup Java Station is located at 1426 N. Henderson St.

The addition of a second Orange Cup location comes at a time of a coffee craze  — both nationally and locally. Galesburg alone has three Starbucks locations, along with locally-owned Innkeeper's Fresh Roasted Coffee, The Beanhive and a Dame Fine Coffee drive-thru with another on the way. That's not to mention coffee shops in Monmouth, Knoxville and many area towns.

"Mel has a theory about clustering," Scott said. "Take burger joints — the more people eating hamburgers, the better for the hamburger industry. The more people drinking coffee and/or other things, the better it is for the industry at large. 

"It's a big industry, and there's a place for everybody."

But the Baldwins say they know opening a new location — especially one with a sit-down component — is somewhat of a risk. 

"Yes, it's a risk," Melany said. "But we wouldn't be true to ourselves, or our baristas if we didn't say we could do this. We'll figure it out. They love the fact that we're going to band together and figure this out.

"We know we have a lot of folks excited about it opening, both in terms of the location and the fact it offers sit down." 

A rendering of the interior of the future Orange Cup SideHustle, 2701 E. Main St. in Galesburg. The mid-century former Shell gas station has vaulted ceilings and large beams.

Couple loved Java Station, so they bought the place

Steve and Melany Baldwin purchased Java Station in June 2017. And while business was steady at the start, it's exploded in popularity over the past two years. All one has to do is drive by most hours of the day to see cars lined up as many as six or more deep on both sides of the tiny drive-thru building.

The owners credit a rebranding campaign, some consumer habits created by the pandemic, but most importantly bonding with and empowering their employees with the surge in business.

"We were customers there, and I was going just about everyday," Melany said. "We learned it was for sale, and we just didn't want it to be sold and not continue to thrive with the girls who were there."

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Ironically, the Baldwins were in the process of acquiring the coffee drive-thru around the same time Starbucks was making a return to its North Henderson Street location — just a few blocks north of Java Station.

Melany recalls a conversation with former owner Joe Mangieri.

"Joe said, guys you don't have to buy it. If you have any fear at all, you don't have to buy that building. But you're going to be really successful if you do."

Unfortunately, Melany was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2017, just months after she and Scott took over Java Station. She was in treatment for 15 months at Northwestern Medicine, and the couple stepped aside to let employees handle much of the business.

Adding Orange Cup to Java Station and the pandemic

Orange Cup Java Station is located at 1426 N. Henderson St.

Back to work and committed to grow the business, the Baldwins decided on a "refresh" of Java Station. 

They sought assistance on creating a new name and logo to go with a spruced up building that houses the baristas. In September 2019, Java Station took on the name Orange Cup Java Station with it's now recognizable orange theme and orange coffee cup logo.

"When we talked with the folks who designed our logo and the whole building refresh, it was like, 'what is the the feeling you're trying to evoke from your customers?'" Melany said. "And we just want to evoke 'Wow! That looks like a fun place to go, let's stop.' That's it.

"First, orange is my favorite color. And we wanted to evoke the idea and the thought of what the name was just by looking at the logo. I think the branding helped establish what we were."

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The name change and refresh happened just before the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020.

"We did a refresh on the exterior, and that, along with the pandemic changed our world," Scott said.

Almost overnight, business exploded at Orange Cup Java Station. State-mandated restrictions eliminated customers from dining in restaurants, leaving drive-thru businesses to thrive.

"People needed to be able to get out and go somewhere," Scott said. "They had to stay in the house, and maybe they couldn't go into work. So we sort of became that third place, if you will. So for sure, we gained a lot of new customers during the early part of the pandemic."

It's all about the employees 

Orange Cup Java Station employee Amanda Davis hands a drink order to a customer at the shop's 1426 N. Henderson St. location on  April 23, 2022.

The Baldwins don't hesitate when asked what makes OCJS successful.

"It's our people," Melany and Scott said in unison.

"It's our people — 100 percent, without a doubt," Melany said. "They have been empowered to be creative and live their best life in the window, and to create a special experience for our customers. 

Scott added, "We are hands on, hands off. We both have experience of mentoring young people, both professionally and personally. There are opportunities to learn a business, and this just so happens to be a coffee/beverage business. 

"For any small business, to empower somebody is a huge step. It makes the employees accountable and feeling like they have a shared interest and are vesting in it. Mel's really done a great job with that." 

Orange Cup Central relies on teamwork

Customers may believe all the the magic happens in the small drive-thru on Henderson Street, but they would be surprised with the amount of behind-the-scenes work that happens in a nearly unmarked downtown office. Orange Cup personnel know it as Orange Central.

"Orange Cup Central is filled with people all the time, and we all sit around a table and figure it out," Scott said. "Mel and I have both worked for giant organizations. I feel like I'm working for Google with these millennials and gen-Zs. 

"Often times I know how I would do it, and at anytime, they say 'boomer, that's not how it should be done.' We just sit back and say, 'what do you need?' With staff, we're driving culture. We talk about culture all the time." 

Melany said, "We know they know more than we do."

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Orange Cup baristas have the opportunity to serve on teams that help market and determine the future of the business. 

"The teams that we have set up have been a game changer for us," Melany said. "We want people to do what they love to do. We have some people who are super creative, some people who like to work behind the scenes, some people like to use their purchasing prowess, some want to be in the culinary world, some people like creating merchandise like hats and T-shirts, some people who like social media.

"So, we developed individual teams that cover those segments. It's 100% volunteer and we pay them to be part of the teams. But they're only on a team if they want to be. There's absolutely no judgement."

Getting hooked on Orange Cup

The owners of Orange Cup Java Station, 1426 N. Henderson St., say 92% of its business comes from repeat customers.

Through analytics, the Baldwins, like many businesses, are able to track who their customers are and what they like to drink.

A whopping 92% of Orange Cup's business comes through repeat or loyal customers.

"It's huge. Surprisingly huge, and wonderful," Melany said. "It sort of makes sense. I think some people, just like I did when I first started going there, say, 'that's just my place.' You get to know the people and they know what you drink."

Scott added, "And if you're one of our 92 percenters who get the same drink most of the time, when you're third in line, your drink is already being made."

There's a more even balance, Scott said, between the popularity of hot vs. cold drinks. 

"Any drink off the special board becomes a popular drink," he said. "And there's a balance between coffee-based drinks and Monster drinks." 

Baristas for a Cause

The Baldwins are especially proud of Orange Cup's charitable Baristas for a Cause project, which to date has raised $22,000 for people impacted by a tragic event in their lives.

Baristas for a Cause was the brainchild of Java Station baristas, who very early in the Baldwin's ownership of Orange Cup Java Station came to them with the idea of helping someone in the community by donating a day’s worth of their tips.

"We thought it was an excellent idea, and not only would we support them, we’d also do some level of matching, so everyone participated," Melany said. "From this simple idea, came so much joy. Not only for all of us, but for the person or people affected by some tragic event in their lives."

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The first Baristas for a Cause event was done in September of 2017 in honor of Melany's son, Randy Sloan, who passed away from mesothelioma two years prior. The baristas raised $550 that was then given to a young man in a wheelchair.

"My son had built a motorcycle for a friend who was a triple-amputee shortly before he died, and he wanted helping disabled people to be his life’s work," Melany said. "We felt he would’ve been happy with decision to help that young man we met. And we never looked back.

"Since that time, we’ve been stewards of giving to many other local people with many hardships. People who’ve had major illnesses — some have fought and won, and others have heartbreakingly lost."

The Baldwins have started the process of creating a non-profit for Baristas for a Cause.

"Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other coffee shops and the barista community-at-large chose to help a local person in their communities to see what a difference can be made?" Melany said. "We hope that more sunshine can be part of more lives."

A rendering of the interior of the future Orange Cup SideHustle, 2701 E. Main St. in Galesburg. The mid-century former Shell gas station has vaulted ceilings and large beams.

Baldwins are bullish on Galesburg

Scott Baldwin is a Galesburg native, having graduated from Galesburg High School in 1977 and Knox College in 1981. He's worked in the employee benefit and risk management world and currently works remotely as area executive vice president for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

Melany Baldwin was born in France and grew up and lived many years in Texas. She's worked in the food world, owning a fresh produce distribution company, and later as an executive vice president for Produce Alliance in California.

The couple eventually met in Chicago and developed a relationship which quickly led to marriage.

"I noticed we were all just happier when we visited Galesburg," Melany said. "So when we decided to get married, I said why don't we live in Galesburg?"

Scott said, "Moving back to Galesburg wasn't part of my game plan, but it's the best thing we ever could have done. Mel would say let's do this and let's do that. All of a sudden, I'm seeing Galesburg in a different way. I'm not an ambassador with the Chamber of Commerce yet, but I'm very bullish on Galesburg. We both are."