By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jul 09, 2024 at 2:25 PM

Valentine Coffee Roasters is keeping busy. In the wake of their recent move to a new roasting facility – as well as the forthcoming expansion of their Vliet Street cafe – guests can look forward to yet another location to enjoy their coffee, this time in a restored historic building on the Upper East Side.

The new Valentine cafe is planned for 3124 N. Downer Ave., in the recently restored building along the eastern edge of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus.

New site for Valentine cafeX

According to Valentine founder Robb Kashevarof, who operates Valentine alongside partner Joe Gilsdorf, the 1,400-square-foot coffee shop will accommodate seating for 30-50 guests along with a menu featuring coffee and espresso drinks, pastries and a cadre of breakfast and lunch offerings.

“It was a great opportunity for us to bring our locally roasted coffee both to the students at UWM and to our East Side neighbors,” says Kashevarof, who notes the project is likely still about six months from completion.

An historic locale

The storefront where the cafe will be located is part of a two-year renovation project that was taken on by Ben Checota, who purchased the building(s) in 2022.

Gaming shopX

Checota, who lives in the neighborhood, says he bought the building, in part, out of nostalgia for his time working at the Follett's bookstore which was there in the 1980s.

"When I was 14, I decided I was going to get a car," he says. "When I told my dad, he advised me to get a job so that I could save up some money. So, I got my resume together and marched over to the bookstore to see if they'd hire me. Everyone was shocked. They didn't even look at my resume, they just hired me on the spot.

"I found out why on the day I started. They sat me on a chair in front of a dot matrix computer and it was my job to tell the students how little money we were giving them for the books they sold back to us."  Checota laughs.

When he purchased the building decades later, he had no idea that he'd fall in love with it all over again and feel compelled to painstakingly restore its history.

In May, he brought new life to the former bookstore (once a mercantile for local farmers) by opening Old Guard Games, a tabletop gaming emporium in a portion of the building at 3132 N. Downer Ave.

Even at that time, he says, he knew he wanted to fill the remainder of the building – which was built in 1906 – with businesses that would operate synergistically with the gaming shop.

‘I knew I wanted a coffee shop in one of the spaces," he says. "The nature of gaming is to hang out and be social, so it just made sense. And when I connected with Robb, we just clicked.  I think it's a great fit. Folks can have a great meal at Sala around the corner, hang out, play games or grab a coffee.”

By day, Checota is the senior vice president for business development at Landmark Healthcare Facilities LLC.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.