New coffee shop caffeinating downtown Whiting

Comfort Roast Coffee House & Cafe has opened in downtown Whiting.

Whiting's new downtown coffee shop has big comfy seats, a leather couch, board games, books and a welcoming ambiance. 

Comfort Roast Coffee House & Cafe aims to be a comfortable spot where people can hang out and savor a cup of joe, tea or a hot chocolate. Rich and Patti Banske, who are both retired, recently opened the coffee shop to fill a void in the area.

"We have quite a few regulars," Rich Banske said. "They like the vibe. Everybody's comfortable. It's called Comfort Roast because we have a relaxed atmosphere. I'm looking around and there are middle school kids drinking smoothies, and a couple of people studying. We've got regulars who are 89 years old."

The specialty coffee shop at 1423 119th St. serves a variety of coffee drinks, espressos, lattes, frappes, smoothies, baked goods and "real" hot chocolate with steamed milk and no water or powder. Comfort Road carries 13 different types of locally sourced loose leaf teas and coffee from the Veteran Coffee Roasters.

"They give $1 for every pound they sell to help wounded and disable veterans through the Wounder Warrior charity," he said. "We also sell their coffee retail, and a portion of every bag goes to veterans. They're whole beans, but we'll grind them up for you."

Comfort Roast is in the process of constructing a kitchen so it can offer a small breakfast menu, soups, salads and sandwiches. The hope is that it will be open by January, and for now it carries pastries and muffins from local bakers in case customers want a bite.

"We have really good coffee and really good teas and friendly people," Rich Banske said. "It's a place where you can hang out in a relaxed environment."

Comfort Roast seats up to 62 people in a 2,200-square-foot space that used to be a florist and a laundromat, but which has sat empty for nearly five years. It employs about 11 people, and plans to add more when the kitchen opens. 

A coffee shop was needed in downtown Whiting, and has already proven popular with students at nearby Calumet College of St. Joseph.

"They didn't have one here," Rich Banske said. "The closest is that Starbucks down by Cabela's in Hammond. We bring people from Hammond, Hegewisch, the East Side, who are looking for coffee. We're got exposed brick walls and nice seating. We've got enough seats where people don't have to hurry. They can stay and relax, or meet up in groups."

Comfort Roast Coffee is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/ComfortRoast/ or call (219) 655-5464.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.