HAMMOND | The Blue Room Cafe in downtown Hammond will start roasting its own coffee this summer.
A red curtain masked the cafe's website for weeks leading to the announcement that was unveiled Sunday night.
The expansion will allow Blue Room to sell coffee on the wholesale market to other coffee shops and grocery stores, said the cafe's owner John Vezmar.
Vezmar said he expects the new venture to expand hours at the business, 5246 Hohman Ave., and make the shop more of a destination.
He's planning tours that will explain the roasting process and cupping sessions where participants will have the chance to sample different flavors.
When he first opened Blue Room, coffee roasting wasn't in the picture, Vezmar said. But as Vezmar learned more about the art and the lengths people will take to find the perfect cup such as visiting the farms where the beans grow, the entrepreneur was hooked.
"I just loved it," Vezmar said.
To purchase the equipment — a main roaster and a sample roaster — Vezmar received an approximately $60,000 loan from the Hammond Redevelopment Commission. The loan is forgivable if certain criteria are met, including the requirement Vezmar hire two Hammond residents and maintain those positions for three years.
Hammond created the program to help small businesses looking to expand, said Phil Taillon, Hammond Department of Planning and Development executive director.
Another Hammond business to benefit from the program is Kelleher, Helmrich & Associates Inc. The firm received approximately $30,000 from the Redevelopment Commission, which allowed it to create new software.
The loans use funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Taillon said HUD allows Hammond to use the funds to create jobs for low to moderate income individuals, so the city created the program that allows businesses to borrow $30,000 for every full-time job they create.
"We saw what was going on in the economy and saw a lot of our businesses needed help, but banks were not loaning any money," Taillon said.
Vezmar said the cafe will roast coffee from all over the world.
"I am most excited about the expansion in general for the Blue Room and the opportunities that will be created as the result of the expansion," Vezmar said, "such as creating closer relationships with other local coffee shops in the area that might want to serve our roasted coffee and the kind of community aspect it will create."