St. Paul-based specialty coffee roaster SK Coffee is the latest local company to make a play in the downtown Minneapolis skyway.
SK Coffee co-owners Nate Broadbridge and Sam Kjellberg, both self-described “coffee nerds,” bet their unique model will win over office workers by taking the 50 South Sixth building up on an offer to fill its skyway-level cafe vacancy.
“Basically, we saw an opening for a more curated coffee experience,” Broadbridge said.
That’s because the pre-pandemic trend of the same few corporate coffeehouse chains in nearly every office tower seems to be shifting, he explained.
“Our hunch – and what we’re working with the building to try to prove – is that when people come back to the office, it’s viewed as a bit more of a special experience, so they don’t want the same thing they can get in the ‘burbs,” Broadbridge said.
SK Coffee specializes in rare single-origin coffee, focuses on pour overs and believes in showcasing the natural flavor profiles of beans. That means its drinks aren’t diluted with tons of creamy milks and sugary syrups, like those you’ll find at other coffee shops.
“What we’re trying to do, ultimately, is bring some neighborhood flair to coffee, because right now the coffee scene feels very corporate,” Broadbridge said. “People who work downtown travel all over the country and the world, and they see coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks everywhere, so they get it.”
Roughly a year ago, Caribou Coffee closed eight of its 12 downtown Minneapolis stores, many of them in the skyway. Those vacancies are slowly being filled by locally-owned coffee shops, with SK Coffee claiming the one in 50 South Sixth and Blackwater Coffee & Cafe in the process of taking over another in Fifth Street Towers.
A former Dunn Brothers Coffee space in SPS Tower’s skyway is temporarily housing Sjokolade, a local confectionery that’s giving brick-and-mortar retail a shot for at least a few months. Flexible short-term lease agreements, like Sjokolade’s arrangement, are becoming more common in the skyways.
Broadbridge wouldn’t share specifics on SK Coffee’s lease agreement, but he said the building was accommodating on lease terms and shared buildout costs.
SK Coffee can also be found in the lobby of St. Paul’s Vandalia Tower, located at 550 Vandalia St., and in the former Misfit Coffee space at 24th Street and Lyndale Avenue in the Whittier neighborhood.
SK Coffee’s third location opened last Thursday, Jan. 4 within the 50 South Sixth building on Nicollet Mall, where its current hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Another dynamic duo, Brittney and Gerard Klass, debuted C.R.E.A.M Cafe in the Abiitan Mill City assisted-living apartment complex on Dec. 26, the day after Christmas.
Located at 428 S. Second St. in the former Smith & Porter space, C.R.E.A.M (Coffee Rules Everything Around Me) Cafe serves all-day breakfast, specialty coffee drinks, lunch and ice cream.
The Klasses also founded Soul Bowl, which operates a stall at Graze food hall in the North Loop, and The Camden Social in north Minneapolis, which recently got a rave review from Mpls.St.Paul Magazine restaurant critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl.
The couple plans to launch another new concept, Klassics Kitchen & Cocktails, alongside C.R.E.A.M Cafe in early 2024.
C.R.E.A.M Cafe is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Friday. It’s closed on Saturdays.