- Wesley Baucom
The Coziest Cafe in St. Charles---La Belle Vie
by Wesley Baucom
It was a cold and pouring November evening when I burst into the La Belle Vie cafe for the first time. I was drenched and smelled like rain, the drops clung to my mask-fogged glasses making it impossible to see. Luckily for me I was greeted warmly by two of the baristas, Kate and Remy, who gave me a napkin for my lenses and a warm place to study. It was relieving being taken care of without hesitation, and their grace made my studies even more enjoyable.
The sprawling layout of the place made me feel like I could breathe. Dark wood shining like amber glistened off the floors and walls---adding to the warmth of the place. While I sipped on my coffee, the grey light beamed through the front windows and blended with the warm lights of the shop, a few others typed away at keyboards or talked with their friends in a droning chatter. Cooks in the back worked diligently on orders while the baristas worked on their magical brews, and soft piano music emanated from the speakers---everything seemed to hum neatly in a slow rhythm. I liked it, it was an ideal place to unwind and work, something that the staff and owners strive for.
After going there regularly for a few weeks, I cozied up to the staff and got to know them better. Eventually I talked with Melissa Hollander, one of the founders of the shop along with her husband, Mark, about what makes the place so special. “About six years ago we had this desire to have a place in St. Charles that was cool, unique, and where people could come in and just let go,” Melissa said. If this was their initial goal, they certainly succeeded. Many people flowed through the shop during my many visits, all with different things to do, but all with the intention to relax. It’s another home for many regulars. “Initially it was meant for students that don’t have a family here that are on their own. We wanted to create that family home.” Melissa continued. It isn’t just the Hollander couple that has this vision---it’s shared by the whole staff.
The baristas really make the place special. You’re never entering the place without a smile and a friendly greeting coming from them. After going there so often, the baristas and I are on a first name basis, along with other regulars. One of the servers, Cami, has made it her mission to make guests feel welcome. “I like acknowledging everyone and making them feel good. It’s not everywhere that people want to be in a good mood or be where they are. I like to be present with everyone that comes in.” The service is impeccable. All customers seem to be catered to---all their needs can lean back and unwind---not wanting for anything. “It’s so homey here,” Cami said. “The atmosphere is really cool. You can just hang out and you’re not on top of other people. I like making people feel comfortable.” Even with its warm atmosphere and receptive staff, the shop offers more than just a place to sit.
---The Hollander Couple receives the key to St. Charles from Mayor Borgmeyer
The food and drinks are incredible as well. My favorite drinks are the latte with a pump of Irish cream, as well as their honey ginger tea to switch things up, in case I’m too buzzed on coffee. At the front counter, the sweet pastries practically scream at you with gooey, sugary textures, demanding to be eaten. The cinnamon rolls in particular, are a godsend. They’re huge, and coated in divine icing that brings it all together---though everything else is delicious too. As far as regular food goes, I highly recommend the Monte Cristo. They’re different from everything else, being a blend between savory and sweet that tastes like a complete breakfast when accompanied by a warm drink. All of this in mind, the shop has a lot going for it, and it’s no wonder that it’s picking up steam.
More people have started to fill the seats as the days rolled by. Not to worry, there’s still lots of room, and the openness of the shop keeps the noise maintained to a quiet murmur. I got to see the grand opening---loads of people came. Even the Mayor of St. Charles, Dan Borgmeyer, came to help cut the ribbon, even giving the Hollander couple the key to the city. The love of their customers is evident. This coffee shop, despite opening only a few months back in September, is on the rise as a go-to destination for all who need a place to relax. It’s a great spot, and they’ve found a regular customer in me. So maybe one of these days, you'll see me there, reclined and relaxing with everyone else.
---The Ribbon Cutting