Grand creator of The Worm Hole coffee shop and builder of The DeLorean, James Tillapaugh


Entrance at 1462 N. Milwaukee

Open since June 7, the Worm Hole is loaded with 1980s memorabilia: Back to the Future, Ghost Busters, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Blues Brothers, John Hughes, Steven Spielberg. Castle Grayskull sits atop the bar. The internet password is "sorryaboutthebug-eyesthing." Written on the front window is:
"Do I want coffee?" "Yes, have some." "Yes, have some."

The place is best known for its replica DeLorean time machine in the front window.

"We were at  the Hopleaf in Andersonville, and we had passed an empty storefront. And we thought, 'What could we do? What could we put in that store front?' And [store owner Travis Schaffner] likes 80s t-shirts... vintage gear. And the idea came when I envisioned a time machine DeLorean hovering above the coffee bar in some giant space with 80s stuff all over. Once I saw that, I was like, 'Man, we have to build that! We have to do that!' And he agreed."



Back end of DeLorean


The DeLorean from the front

The first thing I did was to find out how in the world I could build a DeLorean time machine. I did some research online, and I was able to find a car in Crystal Lake and a guy who has actually built these things, including parts for the actual car in Universal Studios. We looked at the numbers and said, "For the price of a nice awning, we can get a DeLorean time machine. Which one is going to create more buzz and help the business more?" We decided it was the time machine. So you notice we don't have an awning in front of this store. And we won't. Because we thought having a simple sign and a DeLorean would be more fun.

The hard part was finding the stuff. I started Googling "Back to the Future parts." Came across a website, met a guy in Oklahoma City who did a really great job...


I wanted to build the most exact replica ever. The Mr. Fusion on the back is the real deal. It's a 1982 Krups coffee grinder, which is what they used. And this guy happened to have one, and the molds for certain pieces, so it worked out. It was the geekiest thing I have ever done in my life and the coolest thing I will ever do, me by myself in this empty store front in Wicker Park with paper on the windows and a couple of shop lights, and I'm back here opening a box and seeing Mr. Fusion and going, "I can't believe no one's here to see this!" (Laughs)


(He begins motioning to the posters around the room.) Travis found a lot of these. That's an original Ghost Busters poster, from '84 from a New York subway. It's the most valuable thing on the walls, believe it or not. And it's in great shape. (points to a Raiders of the Lost Ark poster) This was a donation from a friend of ours. This is an original. I love how it's old enough that it doesn't say "From Steven Spielberg." It says, "From the creators of Jaws and Star Wars."

I've been a coffee shop junkie for 15 years. I've been a barista for 12. I wanted to make a good coffee shop, because I was used to making good coffee. I talked to some of my friends who are incredibly talented baristas. They were like, "If you're gonna do this, you need to make GREAT coffee. You need to make GREAT drinks. Why don't you try to be the best in town?" I was like, "Well, what's it gonna take?" And they gave me this list. "We're gonna need this equipment, need this stuff, and it's gonna have to run like this..."

Even though I've been making lattes for 12 years over four businesses, I'm not allowed to make a drink for a customer here because these guys are on such a different class. Their drinks are terrific. They go all out. The espresso shot has to be perfect. It has to be perfect.


Wormhole bar, where the coffee magic occurs

I didn't want it to look like a coffee shop. It's sort of the anti-coffee shop. I wanted it to be spacious, with some cool areas to sit, lamp light... I'm glad we stayed away from the brick walls. We thought about doing the brick walls, but every shop now has brick walls. I was afraid to make the place look new, like a shoebox. I wanted the place to look like it's been here. Because it's Wicker Park. People want to feel comfortable. They want to come in with jeans and a vintage tee, and I don't want them to feel like it's a hoighty-toighty, you know, Lincoln Park establishment where people are going to walk in with Bebe and Banana Republic bags and all this. It's a very, very chill, low-key environment, but we have a really great product.

Photos by E. Coorens

For more info: Moving DeLorean in


Grand creator of The Worm Hole coffee shop and builder of The

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