LOWRY HILL EAST — Danny Schwartzman was no business veteran. He wasn’t a pro in the kitchen, either.
But those details didn’t stop him from running with an idea to open his own bagel shop, an idea he made reality last July when he opened Common Roots Cafe at 2558 Lyndale Ave. S.
"I was really experienced at eating bagels, not so experienced in baking them …" said Schwartzman, whose background was in community organizing. "I really have no experience in much of any of this other than knowing what I’d like to see."
What he wanted to see was much more than a simple bagel shop. It was a place that would bring people together, be environmentally responsible and serve food made from scratch using ingredients from local farmers. And on top of that, the bagels had to be "really good."
"That’s something I always thought the Twin Cities could use more of," Schwartzman said.
Bagels are Common Roots’ main draw, but the café also serves soups, salads, sandwiches, breads, pies, coffee, wine, beer and more. Just about everything is made from scratch in-house using local, organic and fair trade ingredients.
Most offerings that aren’t made in the Common Roots kitchen still have a local tie. The Peace Coffee is locally roasted and bike delivered, the beer comes from Minnesota brewers such as Surly and Brau Brothers. Schwartzman can point to any item and explain its origin.
The menu at Common Roots is always changing based on "what’s available, what’s fresh and what’s tasting good," he said.
He meets regularly with local producers to figure out just that. New partnerships are always being developed, he said.
Schwartzman said he doesn’t work with local people for the fresh food alone. It’s also because of his concerns about labor and environmental practices, economic impacts and other issues. Those concerns, particularly relating to the environment, are evident throughout his café.
Instead of a garbage can for uneaten food, Common Roots has a compost bin. And though Schwartzman encourages the use of washable glasses and silverware, he has biodegradable corn-based plastic utensils and cups for customers who prefer them.
Much of the café’s furnishings are recycled or incorporate organic materials. Some of the tables are made of sunflower seeds, the counter is cardboard based, part of the floor is made of barn wood, the hanging lights were scavenged from old buildings, flower beds on the outdoor patio were made from lockers. The list goes on.
Schwartzman also incorporated energy-saving appliances such as an on-demand water heater, a dishwasher that uses minimal water and a kitchen ventilation system that speeds up and down based on how much heat is created.
He said creating an environmentally responsible space wasn’t as costly as one might think and his use of local ingredients hasn’t translated into a bigger price tag for customers. A bagel with cream cheese rings up at a tad more than $2.
The café is already a hit with many from Minneapolis and beyond.
"I’m very supportive of the politics of Common Roots," said Claudia Rhodes, who travels to the café about once a week from her home in Edina. "I only eat organic and their aren’t many restaurants around that serve organic and locally grown produce."