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2021 Village Awardee: NewsBar Café, 107 University Place

It’s that time of year again…time for Village Preservation’s Annual Meeting and Village Awards! The Village Awards recognize and honor some of the businesses, organizations, and institutions that make our neighborhoods such special places, while our Annual Meeting also includes a review of Village Preservation’s activities and accomplishments over the past year. This year’s event will be held on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at 6:00pm — reserve your spot by registering HERE.

Meet one of our 2021 Village Award winners, NewsBar Café, the old-fashioned coffee shop where everybody knows your name!

The news may have seldom offered much comfort in recent years, but the food, service, and steadying presence of NewsBar Café–a recent Business of the Month–certainly have for well over twenty. This Village institution has been in operation at 107 University Place between 12th and 13th Streets since 1994. Under the ownership and management of Jan Balascak, NewsBar Café has become the quintessential neighborhood coffee shop that welcomes you regardless of why you’re dropping in: coffee to go or full meal; work meeting or friends gathering; distracted magazine browsing or tearful immersion in Russian epics. NewsBar is still the place for you. The many things that this café does well and the varied and significant role that it plays in the community make you realize how much we take for granted great independent coffee shops. 

At a most basic level, NewsBar Café offers a wide selection of delicious and reasonably priced food: a tasty reuben sandwich; homemade soups; numerous antibiotic- and cage- free egg(cellent) dishes; pastries galore, both gluten-free and gluten-ous; and a variety of healthy salads, wraps and bowls (as well as less-than-healthy ones. The choice is yours!). The staff accommodates special requests patiently and with a smile; and they pay thoughtful attention to minor details, such as adding extra wrapping to keep your warm to-go meals from getting cold. It is, however, not the food that truly sets the café apart. 

Against, I would imagine, the advice of any competent business consultant, NewsBar Café makes no effort to encourage customer turnover. To the contrary, its management seems to actively encourage lingering, keeping the music at conversational levels and the atmosphere warm, as well as–true to its name–offering publications for browsing, in case you forgot to bring your own. Should that not suffice to communicate the message, the staff’s welcoming manner might. Expect your name, for instance, to be solicited, remembered, and used, just as it was for all the regulars when they first wandered in. Should you become a regular yourself, you will learn that Jan and his staff generally treat patrons as part of an extended family and have, perhaps for that reason, received over the years invitations to customer weddings, graduations, and other celebrations. 

NewsBar Café’s approach to its customers and its commitment to operating as a sort of neighborhood living room has shone through especially during adverse business circumstances. The café remained open after 9/11 when many other downtown businesses closed. It survived, a few years ago, numerous months of demolition and construction right across the street. And it remained in operation all throughout the pandemic, even at a loss. This tenacity has been reciprocated by a devoted following that has persisted despite the emergence of competing chain coffee shops on either side. 

Although Jan’s relationship with his customers might not have stemmed from cold business calculus, he is well aware of its value: “We never closed over the past year, and the real reason we were able to grind our way through the pandemic was the resilience and energy of our customers. We couldn’t have done this without them, and I don’t want to brag, but I’ll tell you: It’s been a mutual thing. At the end of the day, this is a two-way street.” So that Jan and his staff don’t lose sight of the value of their own efforts to the residents and visitors of the Village, we could not be happier to honor NewsBar Café with one of this year’s Village Awards.

Please join us in celebrating on Wednesday, June 16th! To learn about other 2021 Village Awardees and to register for the event, click HERE

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