Putting community back in coffee

What really is “the best part of wakin’ up?” For Carrie and Brian Ehlers, the owners of two Minneapolis Dunn Bros coffee shops, it is living and working in a community they love.

“The true wealth of a small business is in community, not monetary gain,” explains Carrie, who you’ll often see at area parks with her son and dog. “You’ve got to love the customers, the staff, the whole experience.”

The whole experience exists in an eight-block radius between the couple’s shops on 50th and Xerxes and 43rd and Upton. Their home on 49th and York is equal distance from both the stores.

Though the commute is easy, the choice to buy the shops was tough.

“I realized, that it’s not about money, it’s about lifestyle,” she Carrie. With that understanding, the couple took the biggest risk of their lives and bought the shops last November.

For Carrie, who had worked for Dunn Bros as a barista and as a corporate franchise manager, the product and community aspect of the shops was very familiar. Brian, however, was introduced to a whole new world.

"I didn’t drink coffee prior to buying the shops,” said Brian, who now enjoys he coffee black. He is driven by the details involved in a quality cup of coffee. From agriculture policy for the coffee farmers to the humidity in the Minnesota air while roasting a batch of beans, Brian, thankful for a job where he can dress casually every day, has enmeshed himself in the life cycle of a coffee bean.

While Carrie may represent the couple in years as a coffee lover, Brian has taken the lead as coffee aficionado.

Brian roasts coffee for more than 30 hours a week. That’s enough to fill more than 300 cups daily for the area’s coffee drinkers. Brian follows a recipe, or roasting profile written by the Dunn

Bros master roaster, for each bean. This craft requires up to 30 corrections in a 15 minute interval.

Brian takes full responsibility for roasting the beans and is the main business contact. Carrie takes the lead on drink quality, working with the 22 staff members, and creating an ideal customer experience. But the couple works together to make sure the shops, open 16 hours a day, run smoothly.

Keith Mrotek, has worked at both stores for the past three years. He respects the Ehler’s realistic view of the business.

“Owning a coffee shop is really, really intense,” he explains. “People think it is easy but there are lots of costs. Like an $8,500 espresso machine.”

Espresso machines may change, but Carrie and Brian want to make sure community and comfort are always a constant at their coffee shops.

Long-time Linden Hills resident Deborah Morse-Kahn indicates that the Ehler’s management thus far is spot on. “I’m amazed at their kindness and how hard they work,” she said. Morse-Kahn describes Linden Hills as an urban village. She considers Dunn Bros one of the major crossroads that helps maintain the community-feel that many residents crave.

The community aspect of the business is why the Ehler’s chose to buy shops so close to home. Carrie and Brian encourage residents to stop in for a future coffee tasting seminar.

Contributing writer Bridgett Erickson lives in Linden Hills.
Carrie Ehler’s is her sister-in-law.