On Friday afternoon, I sat down with Sarah, one of the owners of Fiddlehead Coffee Co. My first question addressed the name of the shop. She explained to me that the fiddlehead is the name of a baby fern. When a new fern emerges, it is tightly wound, like a snail’s shell. This coil is called the fiddlehead. She told me that in Minnesota and other woodsy places, people will forage (a direct connection to The Forager, the adjoining brewery and restaurant with which Fiddlehead Coffee Co. shares their space) for these baby ferns. The fiddleheads get sauteed and eaten.
Now I understood the chalk art on the outside of the building and the abundance of ferns adorning the interior space – both captured in images in my previous post. There were also fern designs printed on each table top. To extend the fern metaphor, the business is also newly sprouting. They have only been open for about seven months – just “fiddleheads” themselves, really, and hoping to grow their company. One vision they have is to be successful enough to be able to contribute philanthropically to the preservation of woodsy habitats where ferns grow wild and to also contribute to charities that promote gardening with kids.
I asked Sarah to describe the customer base here. “We have a unique relationship with many of our customers because of our proximity with Mayo Clinic,” she said. “Many of our customers are patients and out-of-towners.” She expressed a sincere compassion and understanding for patients and their loved ones who may be going through a difficult treatment or diagnosis. Fiddlehead Coffee Co. wants to be a place of comfort and relaxation and a home away from home. Sarah also told me they attract more affluent people from out of the country whose cultures hold the coffee ritual in high esteem. Fiddlehead Coffee Co. has a high quality product, and for many customers, it’s about enjoying an expertly crafted drink. The Coffee Review describes it this way,
” …a ritual is not only a gesture of hospitality and reassurance, but a celebration of a break in routine, a moment when the human drive for survival lets up and people can simply be together.”
Of course, Fiddlehead Coffee Co. wouldn’t be successful without their regulars. Sarah provided the names of several people who “office” at this shop on regular weekdays. She told me a little about each person, demonstrating the authenticity of the shop’s core mission – to build community and foster relationships. Along with the regular individuals, they host several groups on a regular basis.
When I asked if strangers freely interact and engage one another in conversation like the coffeehouses of the 18th century where socializing with strangers was the norm; she said, not typically. However, some of the regulars have gotten to know each other over time and have abandoned their laptops for stimulating and congenial conversation. To further foster community, the owners and employees of the shop like to facilitate mingling and networking by introducing customers to each other to help make connections happen. “We’re matchmakers of sorts,” Sarah quipped.
“Are there any rules for the coffeehouse?” I asked. She shook her head. “There are no ‘rules’ per se, but everyone is just very polite and friendly.”
“Tell me about the Hate Free buttons,” I said. Sarah explained that their desire is to be inclusive – a judgement free zone. Again she expressed the main reason for having the coffeehouse is to have a meeting space where people feel welcomed, loved and cared for – all the while partaking in the ritual of coffee.
We finished the interview. Sarah went back to washing dishes and serving customers – always with a friendly smile, often by name. I stood up and approached the counter and asked Charlie what drink he would recommend for the afternoon. “Creme Brulee Latte,” he said without missing a beat. “Let’s do it,” I answered. I went back to my laptop while he made my drink. A few minutes later, he called me by name, “Bonnie.” He’d gone to the effort to remember my name from my previous visits. These little things make this a special place.
The drink was beautiful. The perfect souvenir from my week here: a lovely fern design melting into the thick, creamy froth of the coffee. I took a sip. There are no words. “Perfect,” I mouthed to Charlie who had glanced over from his work behind the counter. “You betcha, ” he smiled back.