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Mixing Art With Commerce Poster art is expanding beyond concert promotion into small-business arenas as companies break away from conventional marketing.

By Jason Ankeny Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Forget Starbucks, Caribou and Seattle's Best. Chicagoans in the know frequent Metropolis Coffee Co., an independently owned cafe and coffee wholesaler located blocks from the Lake Michigan coastline in the city's Edgewater district. With its hip, scruffy clientele, amiably funky décor and fervent dedication to organic, small-batch artisan roasting,

Metropolis doesn't operate like rival coffeehouses--which means it doesn't market its products and services like other coffeehouses either. Metropolis instead turns to Jay Ryan, the Chicago-area poster maker behind hundreds of screen-printed concert posters for renowned musicians, including the Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. Ryan--a longtime Metropolis customer whose own band, Dianogah, regularly practices in the company's roastery space--has created two different and equally attention-grabbing promotional posters for Metropolis, both printed by hand at his Skokie, Ill., print shop, The Bird Machine. Pasted up in the windows of Metropolis' wholesale clients throughout Chicago, the posters are not just a sign of an exemplary cup of coffee, they also communicate the company's commitment to old-school virtues like authenticity and handicraftsmanship in a world where homogenization and mass production are the status quo.

"We're a young company in a hip business--the people who work for us are rockers, our customers are rockers, and we're trying to be rockers, too," says Metropolis co-owner Tony Dreyfuss. "We're artisan in the way we do things, and Ryan's posters tie in with that philosophy. They're hand-drawn and made by a person. They're just cool. It's as simple as that."

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