Written by Jordan Michelman.

I can safely say that there’s no other coffee experience in the world quite like Everybody’s Busy, an appointment-only Chicago cafe experience that synesthetically fuses coffee, music, art, culture, and socialization. Located in the city’s artistically thriving Pilsen neighborhood, Everybody’s Busy is the work of Melissa Stinson, who over the last four years has grown and morphed the concept into the “concept coffee bar” it is today. This experience is intimate, distinctive, and utterly personal; it’s the only place to experience Stinson’s own custom Onyx Coffee collaborative blend, served one-on-one to you from over a La Marzocco Linea Mini. 

With the coffee world turning its eyes to Chicago in April of 2024, this is the perfect moment to dive deeper into the ever-changing experience at Everybody’s Busy. 

Start by please giving us a brief description of your project — and why the name, Everybody’s Busy? 

This project is constantly evolving. Everybody’s Busy is a state of mind. And I’m very sarcastic. [The name] is kind of one of those things where you’re like, “Oh, everybody is so busy all the time, I’m so busy,” but actually…if you had time to tell me you’re busy, you aren’t really that busy! To me, it’s all about being productive. Basically, people do what they want to do, and it’s really that simple. 

My space is a coffee experience. It’s all the senses: taste, smell, sound, visual. It’s a very stimulating experience, and people get a chance to come in and just be themselves, you know? It’s safer than a safe space, because it’s intimate. It’s kind of like you’re inside my head. 

You’re located in the Pilsen neighborhood; how has your project grown and changed since Erix Perez interviewed you for Sprudge? How has your neighborhood changed? 

I’ve been here in Pilsen for the last four-and-a-half years, and in the beginning, I was sharing a space with a friend of mine, doing coffee up front while he did retail in the back. That was cool. But doing business in Chicago is hard. Eventually, I thought maybe, let me get a space, and I had this idea about doing something really different with a “coffee by appointment” model. I felt like it would be cool to say if you really want to come see me and have the experience, make an appointment versus waiting by the door. Because this experience is about more than just coffee, you know? Coffee is just the conduit that gets you here. 

Pilsen has definitely changed. It’s still mostly a Hispanic neighborhood. I love this neighborhood, period. I’m in a building called Mana Contemporary, which houses a ton of different artists, kind of like an incubator. It’s an inspiring 

You mentioned that Everybody’s Busy uses a “coffee by appointment” model — tell us more about this style of service. What do you like about it? Why serve coffee this way? 

I’m not a cafe. I’m not. At Everybody’s Busy I do stuff with intention. What’s the rush, you know? If I’m gonna treat myself one way, it means I’m gonna treat you the same way. It’s so much easier this way, and I don’t have to pretend; it’s not a transactional thing. You know what I’m saying? Nobody is really that busy. You make time for what you want to make time for, and it’s totally fine. It’s just common sense to me. 

I’ve learned so much about myself serving coffee. I’m still learning now about business. Along the way I’ve cultivated a nice audience, and I’ve also met some really cool people in coffee and created a community that’s not just local, but really kind of all over the place, which I enjoy. I’ve realized that I’m a personality. It’s not just me serving the coffee; I’m trying to give the culture my perspective. It’s all about time. And to me, you know, people don’t actually like that they’re always on the run. And so here, it’s more about coming here, sitting down, making an appointment online for 30 or 45 minutes, and using that time wisely. Why not learn? Why not listen? You might not know what you’re walking into, but you’re glad you came. 

There’s not really a tangible description online for what we do. You have to come experience it. But it’s also a way to socialize with different types of people because nobody really talks anymore. Everybody’s in a rush. But here with the coffee, you know it’s custom, and you know it’s made with love, with intention and care. People can actually come here and sit down, learn about it, drink it, smell it, you know what I’m saying? It’s a service. And you should always treat yourself well. 

Music is a huge part of your work, from menu items to the experience inside your space. What are you listening to right now? What do you see as the relationship between coffee and music?

Music is a must. I mean, honestly, it’s like that imaginary friend that you must have. It’s just so necessary. 

I’m not listening to any one thing in particular because I have so much music. I do have records, I do have CDs, and I’m playing with cassettes again. It can be anything from Ella Fitzgerald to Little Dragon to Gang Starr to Frank Sinatra to Anita Baker to Sergio Mendez. It’s like the space itself, you know? Everything makes sense. When you get in here, you know. It’s kind of a dealer’s choice, more like you’re coming over to my house, and the focus is really more on the conversion we’re having. It’s not just you that’s a customer; I’m always a customer, too, whether I’m behind the espresso machine or in front of it. 

We socialize at Everybody’s Busy. Socialization is important, and sometimes the best forms come from spending time with strangers. You can learn a lot from them. For me, I do this because I’m also a caretaker. I take care of my mother. And that’s extremely difficult—like wow, it’s difficult. And so, I need a place to go, too. Fro me, this is therapy. I’ve grown with this space. It’s made me comfortable with myself and other people because I’m very much an introvert. So it’s like my treehouse, but also it’s filled with books, filled with culture, and filled with music too, you know? And that’s very important.

I think having a place to sit and feel some kind of way is necessary. You might be a stranger, but we’re not really strangers here. You can come in, discover music, meet people that you would never run into. It’s very intimate. It’s not a lot of noise. And the world is noisy. But coffee and music go together. I really think all sense should be together, like a burnt incense. Music is massaging your heart and maybe your brain and then the coffee is exciting your tongue. I must have music. It’s very, very, very, very important to me, and it’s kind of one of the purest things that’s left in life: coffee and music. 

Everybody’s Busy is located at 2233 S Throop Street #423 Chicago, IL 60608.

Visit their official website and follow them on Instagram for appointment times and details.