The Coffee and Tea Exchange was founded in 1975 by college roommates, Steve Siefer and Peter Longo. Peter’s parents had a small store in Greenwich Village selling coffee and other products to the large Italian immigrant population, and Steve and Peter wondered if they could bring the concept to a larger market. Being the long-haired hippy men of commerce that they were, they decided to use what was left of their student loan money to open a store in Chicago’s East Lakeview neighborhood. While Peter went back and forth between New York and Chicago, Steve married a Chicago girl and settled down to grow the store.
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