The future of Caribou Coffee looks…Scandinavian. White walls and whitewashed floors, slimmer chairs and contemporary sofas, light pouring in on three sides from expansive windows. The menu, too, is updated with infused cold press drinks, nitro cold press, fresh sandwiches, donuts, and Izzy’s Ice Cream.
It’s all available at what Caribou is calling its first “concept store” in Edina, just off Highway 100 at 5000 Vernon. Now open to the public, a grand opening takes place Friday. Caribou’s signature northern lodge aesthetic has been updated—not abandoned—with touches of hunter green and dark wood, moveable stools designed to look like tree trunks, and a fireplace.
The freestanding 2,500 square foot store—located across the street from one of the busiest Starbucks in town—was built from the ground up, allowing Caribou to rethink its standard design. Not only does the store look noticeably different, it features the newest menu items that are only available in select locations. This is the first of 15 stores opening this year in Minnesota and North Dakota that will get an updated look—but not all exactly the same.
“We’re going to try a bunch of different things and see what guests like,” says Caribou president/CEO John Butcher, who was promoted to the top spot in January.
The updated design was inspired, in part, by Butcher’s visit to Espresso House in Sweden, which is part of JAB Holding Company, the Luxembourg-based investment firm that also owns Caribou, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Bruegger’s Bagels. Caribou’s Minneapolis-based design team commissioned some of its new furniture straight from its Swedish sister brand.
“We wanted to find a way to make it comfortable but bright and create unique spaces for people to use the coffee house in different ways,” Butcher says.
Of course, good design might bring customers in, but they won’t come back if the drink and food aren’t up to par.
Infused cold press drinks make their Caribou debut at the new Edina store. All-nature flavor combinations include blackberry sea salt, cocoa orange and chocolate almond. The concept store also features Caribou’s new nitro tap. Butcher seized on the nitro coffee trend shortly after arriving at Caribou from Target Corp. in 2017. Nitro is cold press coffee infused with nitrogen—a colorless, odorless gas. It adds a foamy texture and gives the perception of sweetness without any additives, so nitro drinks tend to be lower calorie than traditional lattes. But nitro requires special equipment and training, which Caribou has been fine-tuning before a major rollout. Now available in 40 locations, Caribou plans a rapid expansion of nitro drinks to 100 stores in Minnesota and North Dakota over the next six weeks.
Guests continue to request more food options, Butcher says. And so the Edina concept store offers turkey provolone, caprese on focaccia and a ham and swiss croissant made daily. There’s demand, he says, for a variety of bread products, so an assortment of Einstein Bros Bagel are featured in the case. For the health-conscious, Caribou introduces overnight oats and yogurt, almond butter and chia parfaits and new fruit and veggie smoothies. “This comes from an overseas trip where we saw a shop take a cup full of vegetables and fruit, put them in a blender and hand it back to the guest—130 calories, just like you’d make at home.”
Caribou also partnered for the first time wtih locally owned Izzy's Ice Cream and will serve combination treats like Affogato—fresh espresso over ice cream and cold press shakes. For the purists, there are Izzy's ice cream cups in vanilla, chocolate and midnight graham crunch.
For the grand opening on Friday, Caribou will serve free brewed coffee with any food purchase and a sampling of new infused cold press drinks. The first 50 guests in line when the store opens at 5 a.m. will receive and exclusive Edina-themed Caribou t-shirt.