Pilot Pete’s Coffee and Treats: A small business that gives back to the community
May 1, 2020
During the morning hustle and bustle of train goers on their morning commute, Elmhurst’s train station has one man who can keep the passengers at ease, he goes by Pilot Pete. Pete Thomas grew up on Spring Road and has been in the coffee business since he was just 14 years old. He began his career working at Chocolate Moon Espresso Company and eventually found the space to open his own small business.
Located right inside of the Elmhurst Metra Station, Pilot Pete’s Coffee and Treats offers a wide variety of items such as specialty coffee, bakery goods and other treats.
“I definitely knew I wanted to open my own small business in Elmhurst some day,” Thomas said. “I grew up in this community and the support system here is something I am very grateful for.”
Founded in 2011, Pilot Pete’s has grown into a community staple as his coffee shop has worked endlessly to support other local businesses and the community in general. Every year, Thomas runs the Winter Coat Drive and donates 20% of his yearly earnings to an Elmhurst family in need. Last year, he helped raise $27,000 for an Elmhurst resident’s Heart Surgery after their insurance maxed out.
“The community means so much to me and I am always happy to help out,” Thomas said. “With all of the help people have given me, it feels good to give something back.”
In normal circumstances, customers would stop by Thomas’ shop for a quick cup of coffee before work, but the new social distancing protocols changed the way Pilot Pete’s will operate. Many normal consumers have been working at home recently, and that has caused business to change. Instead of his customers lining up inside the train station, Pete has changed to Pick-up and Delivery only, which means his customers no longer have the ability to walk up and buy his products.
“I used to have 400-500 customers a day who would buy breakfast or coffee at the train, but it is getting a lot harder now that people cannot commute,” Thomas said. “Recently, I have been driving orders to homes for delivery and running to cars to drop off outside the shop.”
Recently, Thomas dropped off coffee, free of charge, to the doctors and patients at Olympia Chiropractic to support both the business and the patients.
“Pilot Pete’s is exactly what it means to be a small business in Elmhurst,” Dr. Dave Pollitz said. “His [Thomas’] desire to give to others is truly inspiring and we are so lucky to have him in our community. Although times are troubling right now, Pete has gone out of his way to make sure other local businesses like ourselves are taken care of.”
When Thomas gives to the community, the community gives back. As a York graduate and lifelong Elmhurst resident, Thomas embraces his roots and appreciates the constant support of his customers.
“A lot of the members of the community have been super helpful in making sure I am doing okay during this time,” Thomas said. “One of my customers just ordered a $100 gift card ‘in advance’ to give me some revenue. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate it.”
Pilot Pete’s Coffee and Treats may be facing challenges, but Thomas is still determined to serve his community, even if it means going the extra mile for his customers.
“This is something I am passionate about,” Thomas said. “I want to help people in any way I can, even if that means transitioning to delivery instead of order ins.”