CHENOA — A coffee shop may not be the first thing a person would expect to find in a fitness center, but new business owner Laura Kodavatikanti has found a way to make the 20-foot-by-23-foot space within the recently opened Chenoa Fitness Center, 102 E. Cemetery Ave., her own.

    “I’ve always wanted to open up a shop in Chenoa,” Kodavatikanti said. “Initially, I didn’t know whether I would rather run a bakery or a cafe. I’ve lived in Chenoa most of my life and made relationships with people in the community. I missed seeing everyone, so I thought opening a new business would be a good opportunity to continue to get to know the community. I want to offer a place where people can grow, bond and get to know each other.”

    The Crossroads Cafe, a name inspired by Chenoa’s motto, “crossroads of opportunity,” is only Chenoa’s second coffee shop. The first coffee shop, Minnie Marie’s Coffee Shop, has been closed for more than a decade. Kodavatikanti said the main difference between her shop and the previous one, is that Crossroads Cafe is focused on drinks.

    “They were more of tea and sandwich shop,” Kodavatikanti said. “We currently offer coffee, smoothies and tea. We’re going to have food in the future, but we’re hoping to expand this business in a bunch of different directions. I want to specialize in coffee drinks and incorporate health food.”

    While Kodavatikanti has always desired to open up a shop in Chenoa, her husband’s missionary work, Project Nehemiah, kept the family busy. Over the years, the business owner has gone with her husband, Pastor Rod Kodavatikanti, founder and president of Project Nehemiah and associate pastor at River Of Life Outreach Church, Chenoa, on more than 25 mission trips to Southern India.

    “It was really hard to make the decision to open up a coffee shop because that would mean slowing down some,” she said. “I just had this desire that I can’t really explain other than to say it came from God. I considered several different business ideas and although I’ve opened up a coffee shop, I’m debating on possibly incorporating the ideas I had for the other businesses into the coffee shop.”

    Kodavatikanti said everything began to fall into place when she started speaking with John Cerda, the owner of the Chenoa Fitness Center.

    “He was talking to me about opening up the gym, among other things, and I said, ‘I think you’re going to need some drinks at the gym,’” Kodavatikanti said. “We kept talking and I found out he’s a big coffee fan.

    “I figured if both my husband and John love coffee, that’s what I was going to do. With my husband’s love of coffee, I figured whatever I didn’t know, he could help me out with. Between the two of us, I think we have the ingredients for a successful business.”

    All of the drinks at Crossroads Cafe have a travel and transportation theme to their name. Some were named after countries, others after aircraft, train parts or vehicle-related names. For instance, the espresso is called “10W30” because it’s dark and rich like motor oil.

    “I had a lot of fun coming up with the drink names,” Kodavatikanti said. “I did it one night while I was by myself. They just kept coming to me and I would research them a bit to see if it made sense. Like, one of our drinks is called the ‘Wildcat Flyer,’ a World War II plane, but Wildcat is also my grade school mascot. Or, the ‘C5 Corvette’ is a drink that reminded me of the year I graduated high school, 1997. We also have a drink called ‘Bora Bora,’ it’s a white chocolate mocha in reference to the white sands of Bora Bora.”

    The cafe can seat roughly 30 people at capacity and Kodavatikanti has enlisted the help of Prairie Central High School student Lexi Bee to help with customers. While the main purpose of the business is to help the family sustain itself, Kodavatikanti said she would like to put anything extra toward future missionary trips to India, or to Pontiac Christian School, the school their daughter Darshini attends.

    “Although we’re not specifically fundraising, the money we earn will, in turn, help benefit others,” Kodavatikanti said. “We had a soft opening on June 9, the day that the Fitness Center held its grand opening. We had a great turnout that day and we’re hoping that trend will continue. I think the key to having good coffee is in the quality of the coffee.”

    Before she started the business, Kodavatikanti didn’t realize that coffee is a lot like wine.

    “You have to do it a certain way in order for it to turn out right,” she said. “There are all kinds of factors that play into the taste of the coffee. We don’t use typical ingredients because that would ruin the taste of the coffee.”

    The business is currently open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition to serving drinks, Kodavatikanti said the Crossroads Cafe is also available for meeting rentals. If people want more information, Kodavatikanti asks that they call the coffee shop at 815-383-0192. For faster response, she said people can also find and contact the business on Facebook, too. The grand opening for Crossroads Cafe will be held on July 4.

    “I think this space will benefit everyone,” Kodavatikanti said. “We’re brewing new beginnings with a drink for everyone.”