Walk into Bear and Bean Coffee Company, Roseau’s cosmopolitan yet decidedly hometown coffee shop, and you might forget for a minute that you’re in Northern Minnesota.
But that’s not exactly what owners and Roseau residents of six years Keith and Tom Pringle are going for. Yes, they’re tapping into the warmth and funk of a trendy spot in St. Paul or Seattle – where Keith hales from, but it’s also an atmosphere that makes you feel right at home in your own north woods. From the man reading his Bible by the fireplace to the insurance agent meeting with an old farmer to the groups of Roseau students and Polaris employees, Bear and Bean makes it clear that everyone is welcome in their living room.
One look at the menu and you’ll also recognize the flavors of Roseau and the surrounding area, like the Beltrami Bonfire latte, the State Champ mocha and the quintessential midwestern chicken bacon ranch Homestead Wrap or Sandwich.
From the fireplace, flat screen TV, kitschy-cool décor, complete with a bike and boat-turned-recessed lighting hanging from the ceiling, the place is a giant breath of fresh brewed air. It’s a coffee company first, a café second and above all, a safe place where all are welcome, paying customer or not.
“We believe in the revitalization and redevelopment of rural America because that’s truly where ‘home town’ is,” said Keith. For the Pringles, and their extended family of helpers, the Bear and Bean is an investment in a community that needs it and is ready.
“We want to offer the type of environment and the services that people in bigger cities have become accustomed to that nobody says will work up here,” Keith said. But with four months under his belt plus prior experience on the West Coast with a coffee cart that paid for itself, he’s hoping to prove it will indeed work here, in Roseau and four other locations in Northern Minnesota in the next 24 months.
Serving a rural America that many outsiders believe is dying, the Bear and Bean stands by a mantra of inclusivity. “All-Are-Welcome-Here” is the proud face of the store front, their social media and is readily apparent on the smiles of everyone behind the counter when you walk in the door.
“I love walking in to the bright and shiny faces of people who know my name and are looking out for me,” said customer Brynn Olson, a Scentsy consultant out of Warroad who stops in almost daily. Brynn is part of the early morning crowd but also drops in for lunch a time or two each week for her favorite sandwich, the Mama Mia, a hard salami, pepperoni and Swiss sandwich grilled in a panini press and served with marinara. “I’m usually there at 7:20 in the morning and if I’m not, one of the baristas will often text me to make sure I’m ok or tell me they missed me.
“No matter who’s working, they’re always cheery and happy, even if you walk in with that grumpy I-need-my-coffee-now kind of face. I love how home-town it feels.”
And yet at the same time, Olson says it’s still somewhat hard to believe that a shop like Bear and Bean is in Roseau. “I would usually never walk into a place like that in the Cities,” she said, “because I have the silly thought that I’m not cool enough or hip enough.”
When asked about her sentiments on the inclusive mentality imbued by the shopfront, the owners and staff, Olson said emphatically and without hesitation, “I absolutely love it. It’s great that there is someone here in our community saying ‘Yep, it doesn’t matter if you have purple hair, you can come in here. We’re not going to judge.’”
It’s with that open and accepting mentality that Bear and Bean has quickly joined the ranks of active and making-a-difference businesses in the surrounding community. New and unique services such as delivery within 1-mile of the Roseau city limits from 5AM to 9PM, pre-orders, free meeting space, breakfast catering, and event and special-cause donations are helping to make their name known and synonymous with good will.
They also take a tremendous amount of pride in the quality of the product they offer. Their beans are custom roasted locally in Grand Forks, which is the closest market available, and according to Keith, they are picked up weekly so there are no coffee beans in the store older than 14-days. “I also have exclusivity on the beans for Northern Minnesota,” he said, which means you won’t find these flavors just anywhere.
But that is about the only thing at the quickly-settling-in coffee company that is exclusive.
Director of Operations Amanda Hopp said it well, “At the Bear and Bean Company as a whole, we do our best to be all-inclusive. We like to think of ourselves as a family working towards the greater good…and, hey, if that one cup of coffee in the morning is able to help make your day just that little bit better, we are happy to help.”
Keith, while a businessman to the core, got a little more philosophical, “I don’t ever want anyone to feel bad, not welcome or not safe,” he said. “The smile that we put across our face today could save their life tomorrow.” He recounted a lovely story of a lady who came in and just didn’t look happy. He asked her how he could make her happy, sat with her for 15 minutes, and just listened to a neighbor who was lonely and simply needed to meet a new friend.
“That’s what’s important,” Keith said, “You are always welcome here. If you want to just come here and read a book, watch TV, watch the people, it doesn’t bother me. It’s a living room. It’s your living room, and I want people to feel safe when they walk in the door.”
That is rural America rising.
(Published in the October 17th, 2017 issue of the Warroad Pioneer)