Smile Politely

Espresso Royale on Daniel closing May 17th

Espresso Royale‘s location on Daniel and Sixth Street is closing on May 17th, per District Manager Doug McCarver. The coffee shop has been open at this location since 1991, and this location will be demolished as a part of the new development that’s going in on that block.

This means that Espresso’s Daniel Street location will come down, with hopes for continued business in the same location in few years, pending an agreement between the coffee shop and the new developers.

Here’s what McCarver had so say about the situation:

We have been in talks with [the developers] for the past couple of years about being in the new building as the corner anchor tenant, which would be great, since that particular coffee shop is the third oldest coffee shop in Champaign-Urbana (only Intermezzo and the original Urbana Espresso Royale have been around longer.) I managed the shop from the fall of 1992 until the summer of ’95. I remember back in those early days that shop had the stigma of being an artsy, mysterious, counter-culture liberal Urbana-esque style cafe etc etc, until people realized that our shop was a place where everyone was welcome and could get along despite whatever cultural, religious, ethnic, social status, clique, music, whatever they were into, all because of the common thread of caffeine and conversation. We brought people together. This was before the days of coffee shops being mainstream.

McCarver also discussed some memorable moments, most notably Marc Andreessen’s commentary about this location:

Marc Andreessen, in a Newsweek article from the early 90’s,  credits this Espresso Royale location as the place where he got the idea to create a GUI for browsing the world wide web, which became MOSAIC, which them became Netscape Navigator.

In this Newsweek article, you can see where Andreesen mentions Espresso:

Andreessen, then 21, had programming in his genes. But his sensibilities came from a larger matrix. He reads several daily newspapers, browses dozens of magazines, watches CNN on his computer and writes hundreds of electronic messages–and has even been spotted using the phone. He can assimilate vast amounts of information from both the technical and the pop-culture bandwidths, which makes it easier to understand how he could seethe marriage of the Internet to mass society. Three Christmases ago at Aspen, Colo., Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, was riffing about the future with his friend John Doerr, the legendary venture capitalist. “Someday,” he prophesied; “you’ll be backing an 18-year-old who’s writing software that will change the world.” Joy was off by five years.

One evening that same December, at the Espresso Royale Caffe in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., Andreessen decided to create his own universe on the Internet. He knew about the Web’s potential for simple travel through the Net, The idea should have been obvious to others. But the academic egg-heads of cyberspace didn’t think beyond their own needs. Andreessen’s notion was one of those epiphanies little regarded as such at the time by the discoverer. Yet ultimately it would be seen as the birth moment of an era. Andreessen turned to his NCSA soulmate, Eric Bina, for help.

McCarver hopes Espresso will be back in this same location in the new development, but says there’s no agreement that’s been made at this point in time, though he is hopeful they will come to an agreement soon. That new space will likely be completed in “two and a half years”, so we can keep you posted when news comes about that component of the development.

One of our Editors Steve Pratten was able to swing by and capture some photos of the space for the sake of your mental time capsules:

Photo by Steve Pratten

Executive Editor

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