Coffee talk

Misato Yokota talks with Laura Jonker on Tuesday morning, March 14, at Old Factory Coffee Shop in Orange City. The coffee shop is in the midst of relocating. Photo by Josh Harrell

REGIONAL—Folks in N’West Iowa have plenty of options when it comes to going out and buying a good cup o’ joe, and not one of those options carries a controversial red holiday cup.

All have distinct characters, though, and some have big changes brewing along with their coffee.

Old Factory

Old Factory Coffee Shop in Orange City is among those with changes underway. The coffee shop closed its doors on Fourth Street Southwest on Wednesday, March 15, and will open at a new location on Central Avenue in early May.

“I am excited to move into our new place,” said co-owner Steve Mahr. “We have really grown as a coffee shop, which has put a strain on what we can provide our customers. I think we’re going to like being downtown where the action is at.”

There is plenty of action going on in the former Dove Christian Book Store, which will be the new Old Factory. Mahr said they are remodeling the entire thing — putting in a kitchen and restrooms, tearing up the floors to uncover the original flooring and removing the drop-down ceiling to reveal the original 14-foot-high tin ceiling..

“There are going to be a lot of different seating options,” Mahr said. “It is going to be a larger, updated space and by the end of the summer, we are going to expand our menu to offer beer and wine.”

Mahr said most people do not have a desire to drink coffee after 5 p.m.. Since the coffee shop is open until 10 p.m., this will give people a place to hang out that is not a restaurant and not a bar. Mahr said Old Factory will be a relaxed place to go after hours and play games, listen to music, talk to friends, have a beer or a glass of wine and just hang out, regardless of what time it is.

Mahr, who co-owns the coffee shop with his wife, Emily, and friend Deb Bishop, purchased Old Factory from Richard and Rola Sowienski in April 2014. Mahr had worked as a manager of a Pizza Ranch for three years. He liked what he was doing, but he loved the community aspect a coffee shop provides.

“That is something I am passionate about,” he said. “I thought a coffee shop would fit my passion far more than where I was at.”

The community atmosphere is what Mahr attributes for Old Factory’s success. He said each person is treated with kindness and graciousness, not as a number.

“We know this is Candace and she gets a white chocolate mocha. We know this is Ben and he gets a pour-over,” Mahr said. “In life, you look for places where you do not feel alone. In this place, people know and they care, and not just so we can stay in business. We really care about people and because of that we stay in business.”

With no prior coffee shop experience, Mahr dove right in and now offers his customers with as many local ingredients as he can find, such as in the cafe miel drink, a latte with cinnamon and sweet local honey. Every pour-over cup of coffee is brewed fresh, which Mahr thinks creates a perfect extraction and makes a nice, fresh cup of coffee. In the summer, Old Factory offers the Double Dutch, a cocoa-infused cold press coffee that is unique to the shop.

Mahr said the shop obtains beans from the Duluth Coffee Co. in Duluth, MN. Duluth imports coffee beans through Cafe Imports in Minneapolis from countries such as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Columbia, Kenya, Peru and Costa Rica.

Lantern Coffeehouse

Adam and Beth Grimm have been serving Sibley with fresh-roasted coffee at the Lantern Coffeehouse & Roastery for six and a half years.

All of the coffees available at the Lantern are unique to the downtown coffee shop. When coffee is roasted, it transforms from the green beans to the familiar aromatic brown beans and the flavor profile changes. The Grimms can thus offer unique tastes with the beans they obtain from Cafe Imports, but they stick with the traditional menu.

“We do not have a lot of funky, Lantern-specific drinks,” Adam said.

The owners like to keep things simple to help meet their growing family’s needs, and they have a sense of what the small town of Sibley wants. Adam said they work to provide that, and the community in turn, gives them great support.

What they do offer is delicious, complete with a leaf drawn in the surface foam. In fact, Food Network listed the Lantern in its 50 States of Coffee Shops, using the Sibley business to represent Iowa. Adam said he had no idea how the Food Network got wind of them, but one day he received an e-mail from the network stating they had heard wonderful things.

“They sought us out,” Beth said.

Beth is the person behind the name of the coffee shop, having collected lanterns in college. She said lanterns are warm and inviting.

Adam agreed, saying the imagery of lanterns is universal. The name, and the coffee, will stick with the shop when it switches owners in June. Adam plans to attend Iowa State University in Ames for architecture design.

Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious in downtown Sheldon was never intended to be just a coffee shop.

Owner Lisa Huff gained a reputation for having wonderful cakes, and when more and more people began asking her for decorated cakes, she knew it was time to open a business.

Huff said did not want just a bakery, because of the long hours. She did not want just a coffee shop, because she said a stand-alone coffee shop does not have a large enough market to be profitable in N’West Iowa, but serving coffee with sweets, as well as lunches, made sense.

Huff made a connection with the Lantern, and gets the beans for her coffee directly from the Grimms in Sibley. She said when the new owners take over in June, the chain will not be broken, which makes her happy, because she wants to continue to serve her customers with the great beans.

Some of the beverages people can get at Truly Scrumptious, such as the Fog Lifter, might be harder to obtain elsewhere.

“It is a tea with steamed milk, and it’s really cool because you pour the milk into the tea and the milk curls, like a fog coming over a river,” Huff said.

Her personal favorite is the lemon velvet frappe, which she said tastes exactly like a lemon cupcake.

While Truly Scrumptious does not typically develop new drinks, Huff said customers often order their favorite flavor of syrup to include in beverages before they sit down to enjoy.

That was a goal of Huff’s — to create an atmosphere for people to come in and leave all of the troubles behind them.

“The best compliment I overheard was that coming here was just like going to Grandma’s house,” she said.


Fantasia in Sheldon offers a vintage family-friendly atmosphere.

The coffee shop, which also is a gift store, started as an old-fashioned soda fountain 23 years ago. Manager Belva Van Gorp of Sheldon has kept the familiar checkerboard floor, and the ice cream associated with soda fountains.

“Mom and Dad can come in for their specialty drinks and the kids can have their sundaes,” she said.

Fantasia is owned by Village Northwest Unlimited, a residential facility serving adults with disabilities.

Van Gorp said the secret to the shop’s success is longevity. She has a knack for keeping baristas around a long time. This creates consistent products for the customers, as the baristas have a greater knowledge of the process. Van Gorp said they tamp their own beans and froth their own milk. Not only is the practice of longevity applied to employees, but also to the supplier of Fantasia’s coffee beans. Van Gorp said Fantasia has used the same coffee bean roaster in Minnesota since it opened.

“He buys the coffee beans directly from the farmers. He is a large advocate of fair trade for farmers, so all of our coffee is fair trade,” Van Gorp said.

Fantasia offers some coffee blends that Van Gorp said cannot be found in most places, and it does not have to do so much with the beans, as with the flavors. There is Cinnabuns, Dutchmen’s Delight and Turtle Tango. The shop does carry a Highlander Grog, but Van Gorp said it is a little different than what is typically found. There also is the Fantasia Blend, which is unique to the business.

Butler’s Cafe & Coffee

Butler’s Cafe & Coffee in Sioux Center has been serving folks with drinks such as caramel machiattos for the past decade. Owner Shelly Brenneman, who took it over seven years ago, has added many changes to Butler’s.

The business gets its beans from the Caturra Coffee Roasting Co. in Sioux City. Caturra gets beans from around the world, from Papau New Guinea to Nicaragua to Hawaii. Through Caturra, Butler’s is able to offer specialty flavored coffees that is not normally found. Brenneman said some of the flavored coffees are Frangelica, Jamaican Me Crazy and Nuts For You.

The most popular drink in the coffee shop depends on the weather. During the colder months, Brenneman said her customers prefer to drink the lattes. When it is warm out, they gravitate toward the smoothies and the frappes. However, Brenneman’s personal favorite is the Americano.

“I usually drink it plain, but once in a while, I will add a little salted caramel and a splash of half-and-half,” she said.

Brenneman has worked to created a relaxing, homey and quiet atmosphere that is perfect for studying or devotions, and she attributes God’s grace and help with staying open in what can be a tough industry.

“Having a passion for what you do is key,” Brenneman said. “Hiring hard-working employees keeps the store going. Almost everything made in the store is homemade, something that’s rare nowadays. Responses from customers make it worthwhile.”

Rosie’s Sit-A-Minute

The coffee found at Rosie’s Sit-A-Minute in Rock Rapids comes from one place: Haiti. All of the profits made from that coffee goes to one place: Haiti.

Renae Grooters, the owner of Rosie’s, always had wanted a coffee shop, especially since the small town never had one. When her family became involved in ministry in Haiti in 2009, and her daughter opened a boutique there, she decided to marry the two worlds.

The name of the coffee shop comes from the name of Grooters’ daughter’s godchild.

Grooters gets her beans from Singing Rooster in Madison, WI, a coffee roaster that imports beans from the mountains of Haiti.

She does not have a favorite type of coffee bean as she is not really a coffee drinker, but she does love the shop’s frappes.

“They are not too strong, and I do love ice cream,” she said.

The frappes are tied with the lattes when it comes to popularity among her customers. Grooters said that is because those specialty drinks cannot be found anywhere else in Rock Rapids. The flavors that are available are all tied in how much they are requested, as well. Rosie’s has 16 basic flavors, but different flavors can be mixed together to create combinations that customers really enjoy while they relax in the laid-back, eclectic atmosphere of Rosie’s.

“My husband said a coffee shop would not make it in Rock Rapids,” Grooters said. “But tying the Haitian gift shop at Rosie’s with the ministry and the coffee shop has made the whole thing successful.”