Jennifer Olson has a mission.
The graphic-designer-turned-business-owner is creating a community space for friends and neighbors in Isle. “I’d like to make it more than just coffee,” she said in a recent interview.
She’s talking about her newly opened Isle Brew, which can be found on Main Street in Isle, in the front-end of the Maytag Laundry building. Isle Brew opened Sept. 8, and, so far, her son Nathan said, “It’s been fun.”
Nathan is 13 and attends Isle Schools; he often can be seen helping his mom out after school and on weekends at the coffee shop. Jennifer’s aunt, Darci Auger commented Nathan has taken to being a barista “like he’s been doing this his whole life.”
Jennifer said she started entertaining the idea of opening the shop after the owner of the building, Mike Riley, approached her about it. There previously was a coffee shop in this section of the building, and after Jennifer and her son moved to the area about a year ago, she “wasn’t sure about what [I] was going to do.”
She has 20-plus years of experience as a graphic designer – perhaps a far-cry from owning a coffee business. But she put in the time after Mike approached her, learning what she could online and taking some classes. Over the summer, Nathan joined her endeavors, and they were “learning on their own,” experimenting with different pairings and flavorings for drinks and smoothies.
Taking on another big change in a year with “a lot of change for both of us,” Jennifer said of her and Nathan, taking on the coffee shop felt within possibility. “What one more big change?”
During the Olde Tyme Fall Fest in Isle, Jennifer said the shop was busy. And she looks forward to seeing a few regulars throughout the week who enjoy taking advantage of the seating options in Isle Brew. Plus, the atmosphere is calming, with plenty of greenery and fresh natural lighting.
That’s a direct result from Jennifer’s keen eye and green thumb. Darci pointed to a beautiful plant and said, “She saved that one from the laundromat.”
Jennifer only laughed and agreed, “They were pretty sad.”
With her background in design, Jennifer plans to incorporate more art in the space. Once she feels more established, vendors will be able to set up their wares, too. She already has a couple lined up. Her idea is to keep it Minnesota-local with maple syrups, jams and honey, and some crafts as well.
In addition to those imminent plans, Isle Brew sells beans, which are roasted by Tiny Footprint in Brooklyn Park. Options include a Jamaican blend, organic breakfast, highlander grog – “some really neat ones,” Darci said. Jennifer will grind them for a customer if they don’t have a grinder at home.
Other offerings for purchase include smoothies made with real fruit and Italian sodas. When asked what an Italian soda is, Jennifer said it’s flavored syrup with carbonated water and half-and-half. Darci said it’s “different from pop.” Nathan added, “It doesn’t fill you up as much.”
Nathan said it’s easiest to make iced coffees, because you don’t have to heat up the milk with the steam wand. One of their favorite drinks on the menu, though, is the affogato, which is a combination of vanilla bean ice cream, hot espresso with whipped cream on top.
Jennifer is looking forward to cultivating more of a community presence. She already participated in the recent Chamber of Commerce Soup Slurp, for which Isle Brew won third place. She compared running her business with graphic design – with design, the product is more tangible, and you see how your product is used. With a cup of coffee, success is measured more inwardly. Does it lighten someone’s day? Does it scratch that caffeine-induced itch? Darci pointed out how specialty coffee really is kind of an art.
More than that, though, Jennifer hopes people utilize the wonderful space of the store, that they feel like they can enjoy their drink in a comfy corner with a companion or a book. The store does have WiFi access for those who wish to use it.
In the future, especially as the weather takes a turn for the cold, Jennifer is open to hosting small group events. She shared, “One lady suggested crocheting and knitting days.” Jennifer also mentioned the possibility of hosting a wine and paint evening, or maybe just coffee and paint. She looks forward to continuing her graphic designing career in different ways, too. She has a couple awards under her belt, so she hopes to continue her work, maybe with some other local businesses and individuals.
Also coming to the coffee shop are tanning beds. Jennifer said they “look like big time machines,” as they are the standing units, but they should be up and running this winter and ready for appointments.
Isle Brew is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 pm. and Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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