When Deb Morin opened the Neutral Groundz cafe in North Mankato, she had a problem.
She didn’t know anything about coffee.
So she contacted Clay Sharkey, one of the founders of Mankato-based Beans Coffee Co., and asked for help.
“Clay and I go back to the beginning,” Morin said. “He’s the one who taught me how to make all the coffees.”
Because of this long-standing relationship – and because Neutral Groundz has been using Beans Coffee Co. coffee beans since the day it opened on Belgrade Avenue – Morin turned to them again when she needed ‘a hand.
Morin announced a few weeks ago that she was shutting down the coffee sector of her business so she could spend more time with her ailing mother. But a few days later, she announced that she had found a buyer for the coffee side of her business and that the coffee would continue to flow at Neutral Groundz.
At the time, she refused to name the buyer. But on social media Monday, she announced that Beans Coffee Co. — owned by Sharkey and Eric Poppler, with head roaster Jon Michels — was taking over.
Also on Monday, Beans released this statement: “The store will reopen in early October as ‘Beans Coffee House,’ offering a full line of hot and cold coffee drinks, and serving hot and cold items, from pastries to sandwiches, salads. and soup.
Morin will lease space from Beans Coffee Co. She will continue to own the other part of the business, which sells clothing and home decor items.
Sharkey said Morin’s desire to get out of the coffee business came at a good time. Beans Coffee Co., he said, had planned to establish a physical presence.
“A cafe has always been part of our goals and plans, but not necessarily this quickly,” he said. “We had built a pretty good relationship with (Morin). So when she considered retiring, we were her first and only call when it came to coffee.
Morin said it was the best possible outcome for both parties.
“They always wanted coffee. And they are excellent at what they do. I think they will probably do it better than me,” she said. “And it frees me to then be able to spend time in Arizona with my mother and deal with this situation.”
The food and coffee offerings will remain mostly the same, but Beans Coffee House will also introduce a few new items.
Beans Coffee Co. products can be found at Wooden Spoon, Mom & Pop’s, Mankato Brewery, St. Peter Food Co-op, Pub 500 and other locations. The company, which began experimenting with a garage popcorn machine in 2011, also operates a mobile coffee truck found weekly at the Mankato Farmers Market.
When Neutral Groundz announced plans to discontinue the cafe, customers flooded Facebook with sad comments. But about a day later, Morin announced that she had found a buyer. The only questions left were who the buyer was and when would they start serving coffee again.