Goodbye to a Kingfield treasure

Here’s how things were in Kingfield in 1997: We had a building that made ice cream and espresso — and sold neither to residents.

We’d moved into the neighborhood three years earlier, Uptown refugees who learned if we wanted to be homeowners, we’d have to move a lot closer to 35W and the airport than we wanted. Bourgeois swells that we are, we at least assumed we’d be able to get a good cappuccino — after all, there was a building named “Midwest Espresso” right there at 43rd & Nicollet.

As it turned out, it only sold espresso machines. And the Sebastian Joe’s ice cream we’d loved at Franklin & Hennepin? Made in the back of the same building then shipped out of the ‘hood. It was like 4301 Nicollet was laughing at us. We quickly got used to the airport and highway noise, but we’d walk past Midwest Espresso and fume.

Then one day we got word: Midwest Espresso was moving out. Our friends Theresa and Brent were opening a coffee shop! And their joint, Anodyne, would sell Sebastian Joe’s!

This is how excited we were: When Theresa and Brent asked for help getting the place open, I stayed up late one night painting the men’s room for free.

Last month, Theresa announced she was closing Anodyne after 17 years, and we weren’t alone feeling the gut punch. Those of us who moved in when you could buy a house for $87,000 but not a latte at any price suddenly felt old. Our son was born the same year as Anodyne, and he and his sister always knew they could get that Sebastian Joe’s cone after dinner.

There are lots of headlines about businesses that want this and that: to get a tax break, or affect public infrastructure, or pay their employees less. Anodyne was a business that gave and gave.

Few remember it now, but Anodyne was the first smoke-free coffeehouse in the area — from day one, you could get a great cup of joe without exposing your kids to Joe Camel, a decade before smoking was banned in restaurants. Competitors eventually came around.

And there simply would not be a Kingfield Farmers Market without Anodyne. Theresa was part of the original group that pushed the neighborhood association to sponsor the market, and its first season (2000) was on the narrow strip of sidewalk outside her shop. For many years, Theresa volunteered on the market board, working long hours after her long hours, helping set up or tear down tents, booking our music, always cheerful, asking for absolutely nothing (but letting market-goers use her bathrooms!).

Needed a ton of cookies for some neighborhood meeting? Anodyne was there. Need a place to sell your fundraiser’s tickets? Anodyne wouldn’t even ask for a cut.

I think we all got used to Theresa’s selflessness, so much so that when Anodyne closed, many people’s first thought was something had gone horribly wrong. Was she ill? Did Kingfield’s explosion of restaurants and coffee artisans doom what had become our neighborhood rec room?

Happily, Theresa simply decided it was time for a new adventure. Her son was graduating from high school, she was downsizing, it was time for a lighter, less predictable life. She’s earned it! She made sure her shop passed to new owners (Bull Run Coffee) who have promised to keep the ice cream, curried turkey sandwiches, and other treats.

There is something simply magical about turning a place people fumed at into one they love so much they can’t bear to see it go. Thanks to Theresa, and Brent, and all the staff who over the years got up early, stayed late, dealt with our caffeine-deprived zombiness, picked up our kids’ ice-cream-sticky Legos, made us those waffles, and helped remake Kingfield as a place to be loved. For so many of us, Anodyne was a business that made a neighborhood a home.

David Brauer, a former Journal editor, lives in Kingfield with his wife and two kids.