Circumstances had to be just right for Lakewood’s newest coffee shop, The Blue Cafe (15715 Madison Ave.), to open up. It had to be “the right time.” The right space needed to become available. The right people needed to sign on. And Karen needed to give Paul her phone number.
Jump back to West Lafayette, Indiana, 1992. Paul just had an incredible night dancing with Karen to Morrissey’s cover of “That’s Entertainment,” originally by The Jam, at a dance club not far from Purdue University’s campus. He’d love to see her again, but Karen isn’t having it. He can’t help but keep trying, ‘til finally one of her friends relents and gives up Karen’s sacred digits. She agrees to one date at a coffee shop. She orders a blackberry tea, and it’s brought out to her on a tray with a single flower, slipped to the barista in advance by Paul.
The next day, Karen skips all her classes. She can’t help it. She just wants to keep hanging with Paul.
This version of how the Beegans met wasn’t the most likely. By all accounts, they should have met much earlier, when Karen attended a house party that Paul’s band was performing at, or during one of Paul’s shifts at one of Karen’s favorite campus coffee spots: The Blue Cafe.
Karen and Paul Beegan had their separate reasons for adoring the original Blue Cafe, owned and operated by a Puerto Rican woman named Iris. Paul had fallen in love with the place the first time he walked in. He loved the live music and that the staff could play their own tunes while they worked. Paul asked if they were hiring; lo and behold, they were. Karen was a regular, stopping by for brews and entertainment often enough to become close with a number of the staff — just not Paul. It wasn’t long after they met and established their mutual love of The Blue Cafe that they started saying to one another, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to open a coffee shop someday?”
Many days passed between that first utterance and “someday.” They relocated to Lakewood in 1996 (Paul is from Fairview Park, while Karen is from Chicago), and they were married in ‘97 (their first song at their wedding was “That’s Entertainment” by Morrisey). Paul finished a graduate degree in architecture. Karen worked in her field – retail management – for a number of years, ‘til she followed her heart, and, “in two years with two babies,” she earned her Masters in Primary Education from Cleveland State. She’s now a beloved kindergarten teacher at Lakewood Catholic Academy. Over all the years — three kids, career shifts, new businesses — they kept posing that same question to one another: “Wouldn’t it be cool to open a coffee shop?” The image of their dream cafe started to crystallize: it had to be in Lakewood, because a late-night, live venue sort of place would be perfect for the city; it had to be The Blue Cafe, because the old one, though long-shuttered, was worthy of revival; and it had to be for everyone, because the world needed a little bit more of that.
“We thought we would do it later, after all the kids had grown up and moved out of the house and we had some free time,” says Paul. “Things happened a little bit differently.”
Paul’s firm, Beegan Architecture, shared a block with a coffee shop which closed in fall of 2020 due to the pandemic.
“We thought, ‘Well, rather than let it close and go away, maybe now’s our time. Maybe something’s telling us: Here’s an opportunity for you to come in and do it.’ And that’s what we did.”
They took over the space and in the early spring of 2021, set to work creating their Blue Cafe.
“Our family – our kids – helped us get this place together. They worked really hard in everything that we asked them to do. It’s a lot to ask of teenagers,” Karen says. “But that part we wanted to instill in them: hard work.”
The pay-off from that hard work is Lakewood’s newest cozy getaway. The Blue Cafe today is bright and welcoming. Its main wall serves as a gallery for local artists to share and sell their work. Fresh flowers in miniature vases adorn every table. A cozy couch and two armchairs beckon from the back. The counter boasts a full coffee menu of Phoenix Coffee, as well as two large pastry cases brimming with tarts, cheesecakes, cookies, and scones, all sourced from local bakers.
They’re open Monday through Thursday, 7 AM to 7 PM, Fridays 7 AM to 10 PM, and Saturdays 9 AM to 10 PM. Open Mic is every Friday night from 7 PM to 9 PM. Keep an eye on their Instagram (@bluecafelkwd) as more events are added to the calendar.
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