The Coffee Shop Is the New Office
Leaving home to work at a coffeehouse sounds refreshing in theory, but finding an available seat can be a challenge these days, even after the morning rush. Coffeehouses are packed—beyond pre-pandemic levels, in some cases—and with more people than ever working remotely, the average customer tends to warm their seat for quite a while.
Spyhouse Coffee, with six metro locations, rebounded to pre-pandemic sales levels by the end of 2021. So far this year, sales are up 20%, as more people make coffee shops the new remote workplace.
“We know that the coffee shop experience is more than just a quick hit of caffeine; it’s a place to connect, reflect, and recharge,” says Kevin Wencel, president of Spyhouse, which was purchased last year by Missouri-based FairWave Holdings LLC. “After an extended time at home, we see our customers buzzing in the café. Our hourly transaction data tells the story—people are back, and we love it.”
After two-plus years leaning on takeout orders, Spyhouse plans to invest in what Wencel describes as the “café experience”—expanding some locations, redesigning others, and adding more food and beverage options in the coming months.
Rustica Bakery, with locations in Minneapolis and Edina, is also packed once again, says owner Greg Hoyt. And customers are in no hurry to get to an office.
“What I’m seeing is more people [at] midday and definitely more people using the space longer,” Hoyt says. That doesn’t always add up to more sales, but Hoyt isn’t complaining. “If somebody wants to come the moment we open at 7 a.m. and stay until the moment we close at 6 p.m. and drink water, I have no problem with that. I think a place that is attractive to people has to have people in it.”
A trend that was brewing pre-pandemic but was perhaps accelerated by two years of drinking coffee primarily at home: Today’s customer is more interested in specialty coffees, observes Grant Newsome, production manager and head of education at Dogwood Coffee Co., which has three locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Spyhouse has noticed the trend as well. “Specialty coffee consumption has been on the rise for years, but we believe the pandemic gave it an extra shot,” Wencel says. “We see more customers asking about the origin, flavor profiles, and roasting techniques.”
Specialty coffees, defined by their high grade of beans, can help cafés draw a more diverse clientele, Newsome adds. “We’re creating that hub here in Northeast Minneapolis.”
Sixty-six percent of Americans drink coffee each day, more than any other beverage including tap water. According to the National Coffee Association, consumption in 2022 has hit a two-decade high.
Six to Try
Can’t find a table at your usual spot? It’s a great time to caffeinate at one of these new locally owned establishments.
Flava Coffee & Café
Shaunie Grigsby started her café to create work experiences for young women of color and gender-expansive youth by propelling them from “coffee to career.” Opened in August, the new shop is located in the lobby of Frogtown Crossroads, the new headquarters for the Neighborhood Development Center, which helped Grigsby get her business off the ground. 623 University Ave. W., St. Paul, flavacafe.org
Minnesota Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn opened this shop in her district over the summer to create a community gathering space that is a reflection of her Ojibwe background. Try the Ziigwan, which means “spring” in Ojibwe; it’s a cold brew blend of milk, caramel, and maple syrup. The shop also sells wild rice from the Leech Lake Reservation, where Becker-Finn grew up. 2805 Hamline Ave. N., Roseville, makwacoffee.com
This St. Paul roaster, which recently changed its name from Bootstrap Coffee, will open a second café location this fall in the lobby of The Duffey, a North Loop apartment building. Open to the public, the café will offer the same menu as its St. Paul coffee bar, with batch brew, pour-overs, specialty beverages, and teas, as well as a selection of pastries, hot sandwiches, and chia bowls.
528 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis, backstory.coffee
Located in the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center, this cafe is youth-led, thanks to a partnership with the Twin Cities chapter of the International Indigenous Youth Council. Teens not only staff the counter, but they also designed the space and created the menu, which features an array of coffee drinks and specialty herbal teas. Coffee is sourced from Spirit Mountain Roasting Co., a Native American-owned company in Arizona. 788 E. Seventh St., St. Paul, indigenous-roots.org
Disco Death Records
Following the pandemic closing of Dead Media Records comes Disco Death Records, a combination of café and record store where customers can browse vinyl and cassettes while sipping a specialty espresso drink . 721 W. 26th St., Minneapolis, discodeathrecords.com
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The Coffee District
When the Dunn Brothers franchise she managed in Bemidji went up for sale, 21-year-old entrepreneur Madi Stone bought it and turned it into an independent coffeehouse, which she says is more befitting the unique character of the small town where she grew up. After remodeling, the shop reopened as the Coffee District in August. Drive-through is available. 501 Paul Bunyan Drive S., Bemidji, thecoffeedistrict.squarespace.com