One less haunt remains in the C-U


“Mildly resigned” is probably the best phrase to describe your humble editor’s reactions as he sees news items from afar about local businesses closing, opening, and changing hands. He knows this is standard phenomena in the life cycle of the ever-changing college town, but it can still feel like a gut punch when it comes to favorite places ceasing to be in the space of a blunt headline in a Web browser. Such is the case with current reports on the imminent shutdown of the Espresso Royale branch at 602 E. Daniel Street in Champaign after tomorrow, Friday, May 17, which he will not get to visit one last time.

Coffee, pastries, and companionship can still be had at the eight other ER locations in Champaign-Urbana and there is a potential for this one to reemerge in the mixed-use monolith rumored to be in the works for that corner of Daniel and Sixth. We will still be sad to see it, an agreeable non-major chain located in a unique two-level layout with a central stairwell, vanish from Campustown. ER was not Ye Ed’s first choice for spending down time with caffeine during his first years in town – The Daily Grind and Café Kopi filled the need – but he grew to enjoy its well-lit openness during slow weekends and the summer months. Now, it will join a laundry list of local establishments consigned to memory.

We don’t have to completely rely on our private and shared recollections, selfies, and ephemera to appreciate ER on Daniel and other nostalgic beats. Have you ever considered how the indigenous cinema “accidentally” records local history, culture, and architecture that can be plucked back out in the proper context years later? A recent marathon of work on C-U Confidential issue 10 by yours truly included the writing of a “Retro/Perspective” coda about what our film culture looked like in 2006, the year we founded C-U Blogfidential. It so happens that one of the old projects mentioned in the piece, which we also have been revisiting for another article to post here shortly, features an appearance by this ER.

TRIAD, the impressive 40-minute-long ghost thriller from 2003 directed by UI alumnus Chris Folkens while an undergraduate, leads to a confrontation between senior philosophy major Carter (Adam Pasen) and Daily Illini writer Miles (Paul Karpenko) about the veracity of hauntings and student disappearances in academic buildings. We’re sure ER on Daniel was probably chosen by the young crew as a set due to its proximity to campus and late closing time, yet the reputation of the coffee house as a locale where one studies and intellectualizes is an apropos oasis for Carter before he is ultimately swallowed by the night. A roving camera and Miles’ ranting on conspiracy and the supernatural only heighten the unease.



We won’t bury you with references to other long-gone somethings in our movies, but here are a few quick examples. The original White Horse Inn on Green Street doubled as a disco for an episode of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE 1970s before it was demolished. LEADING LADIES, the LGBT-friendly musical drama, began filming 10 years ago this month in the C-U and utilized such settings as Village Inn Pizza and Jerry’s IGA, both formerly in the Round Barn Center complex of Champaign. Our revered Mike ‘n Molly’s on Market Street in Champaign set the mood for the myriad likes of WEREWOLF CEMETERY and ONCE UPON A TIME while still open to serve as did That’s Rentertainment on campus. Folkens, today a producer of promotional spots for ABC-Disney, used the craggy interior of The Highdive club in Champaign for TRIAD (pictured here from a self-released DVD) and its unrelated follow-up TOXIN (see CUZine #10); it is now a vacant storefront. The cameos continue, should one care to excavate.

Maybe this is our point to make in the final days of Espresso Royale on Daniel. The movies of Champaign-Urbana capture more of our world than we realize. These details bring a distinct character and charm to what appears in frame. By all means, look past the formal elements of filmmaking on a repeat viewing and pay mind to what lingers in the backgrounds and the margins. It might surprise you.

~ Jason Pankoke

p.s. Like many others, we watched the fascinating split-screen video posted by the university late last month. It compares eastbound drives on Green Street, traveling from Neil Street to Campustown and past the Alma Mater, as seen in a video shot in 2019 for this exercise and a vintage recording from 1994. How more infinitely mindboggling might it be if the older footage had come from, say, 1973?

p.s.2 This musing says nothing of locally-produced news media and documentaries. Who knows what all material exists out there?

p.s.3 Naturally, Ye Ed will most likely be in town next week to do the CUZine cover shoot and hopefully deliver final files to our printer. Next week. Ugh.

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