Knowing Your Neighbors: Yellow Bike Coffee

DULUTH, Minn. — Last June, Yellow Bike Coffee closed their doors when the lease expired where they had called home for five years on Miller Trunk Highway. By the time September rolled around, they had purchased a building near the airport that they had to transform from a garage warehouse into a coffee shop.

“So, we got in here and we just started imagining and we said to ourselves, how can we make a garage interesting?” said owner Shannon Cornelius.

All of the employees including baristas Gretchen Barta and Sahra Cornelius were there helping to get the building’s interior ready. It didn’t take them long to learn that paint and windows were that fastest way to transform a space.

“Yeah, we had like a spray gun painted the stairs. We were like nailing things in and finishing up on everything,” said barista Gretchen Barta.

Part of the renovation included replacing one of the big garage doors with a large window to bring in natural light. In addition to the main floor seating where the service counter is, there is an upstairs loft where customers can sit in a more intimate setting. There is also an outside patio in the back.

With most of the building ready to go, some of the permits and licensing were taking longer than Shannon would have liked, so she had to get creative to open as soon as possible. That is where her mobile trailer paid off.

“Our trailer is self-contained and already licensed. So, since we have two garages side by side, we’re like, we’ll just cut a hole in between the two garages, pull our trailer in here, and then we can operate out of the trailer, you know, legally until – cause it’s all electric – we can operate out of that legally and just buys us some time to get this thing going,” said Cornelius.

While Gretchen and Sahra are excited to be open and serving coffee again, there are some mixed feelings when it comes to working out of the trailer.

“I’m so excited for more space. When it’s two people and when you get busy it’s a little tight, tight corners, but the trailer, I do love the trailer. The machine’s super cool,” said Barta.

“Relieving, but also still a little stressful cause we have a lot left to do, but I’m loving having our own space again,” said head barista Sahra Cornelius.

The hope for them is to be able to move out of the trailer and behind the counter by this summer. When that time comes, they look forward to being able to be more interactive with their customers as they serve coffee, chai tea, and in house baked goods.

Yellow Bike Coffee is looking to expand what they have to offer in the near future with the unused building space. This includes adding more food items to their menu, a conference room, overnight stays, media production opportunities, and private office spaces.

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