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SunBean Coffee Shop Will Light Up a Long-Vacant Standish-Ericsson Storefront

'A lot of the newer coffee shops are made to go: order your coffee on the app, don’t talk to a human, grab your coffee and get out of here. We don’t want that.'

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Fred and Annie DuBose want customers at SunBean Coffee Shop to feel like they’ve walked into a warm, sunny day—literally. The upcoming coffee shop will have a “SunBar” of adjustable light therapy lamps so that people can boost their mood as they sip their beverage. 

“With SunBean, I wanted to create a place I want to go,” says Fred, who uses light therapy to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

But it’s not just the lamps: The whole SunBean experience will be designed to improve people’s moods, including the music and color scheme. “We might be your first smile of the day,” Fred says. “Hopefully you take that somewhere else and continue that on.”

“People need human connection,” Annie adds. “And a lot of the newer coffee shops are made to go: order your coffee on the app, don’t talk to a human, grab your coffee and get out of here. We don’t want that. We want people to come and connect with other people.”

SunBean is the realization of Fred’s longtime dream to start a coffee shop. After nearly two decades doing youth development work with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, he left in 2019 to launch SunBean, taking business classes and drafting a business plan.

“We were literally about to start looking for funding in January 2020, and then all of life came to a screeching halt [due to COVID],” Annie says with a wry laugh.  “We decided it wasn’t a great time to start a brick-and-mortar.”  

Instead, the couple moved on with other aspects of their lives. They got married; Fred found another job; they had a baby. But SunBean was still on Fred’s mind. “That middle-management role that I was in didn’t fill my soul the same way as starting this journey,” he says. This past March, he decided that “it was time to go all in.”

Fred’s vision for SunBean has always been for it to be a neighborhood coffee shop and gathering place, located in a residential neighborhood. The couple found an ideal space in south Minneapolis’ Standish-Ericsson neighborhood, in a long-vacant storefront (4553 34th Ave. S.) next door to neighborhood bar Bull’s Horn. Renovations will begin soon, with the coffee bar and SunBar at the front of the shop, some tables toward the back, and in the warmer months, streetside seating and a patio.

SunBean will join a wave of BIPOC-owned coffee shops that have opened in recent years, but Fred, who is Black, notes that Black-owned establishments still make up a tiny percentage of Minnesota coffee shops.

“That’s a huge thing that sets us apart,” he says. “[We want to be] a safe place to learn and ask questions, instead of going in and feeling intimidated—I don’t know what to order, I’m holding up the line, that type of thing.  We want to create a place where we can educate [our customers]. We’ll have screens that give you information about our coffee.”

That sustainably and ethnically grown coffee will be sourced from St. Paul’s True Stone Coffee Roasters. There will also be a menu of non-coffee drinks including kombucha, mushroom coffee, sparking botanicals, and beverages with adaptogens—herbs and plants used in some Asian cultures that may reduce the effects of stress. The food menu will include sweet and savory items from other women- and BIPOC-owned local businesses, such as Fruit & Grain pop tarts. Other partnerships are in the works, and Annie hopes to offer fresh lunch items like salads and wraps.  

Supporting mental health is a central part of Fred and Annie’s vision for SunBean. In addition to the shop's positive, affirming environment, they plan to donate 3% of profits to organizations that provide accessible and affordable mental health care. Noting that there's often a stigma for those struggling with mental health issues, especially for members of the BIPOC community, Fred wants to make SunBean a space where mental health can be addressed openly and people can connect with the resources they need.

Fred and Annie also plan to partner with local organizations to create high-quality job training and mentorship opportunities for youth with barriers to employment.

“It will be baristas to start, but as we grow there will be a lot of other opportunities, with marketing, accounting, and those types of more business-oriented opportunities,” she explains. “It’s about the opportunities and the exposure, and seeing people who may look like them owning a business,” Fred adds. “I think that, in itself, holds a lot of value.”

The couple is hoping to open SunBean in October—“Annie’s excited about that because it’s just in time for pumpkin spice season,” Fred says with a chuckle.  

Start up costs are estimated to run about $110,000, the owners report. Fred and Annie have already raised $90,000 from their personal savings, financing from nonprofit NextStage, and a matching loan from the city of Minneapolis. They’ve organized a GoFundMe to bridge the gap, and are just over a third of the way to their $15,000 goal.  

“We’re asking people who want to invest in us to help: people who are passionate about Black-owned businesses and women-owned businesses, people who want a coffee shop in their neighborhood, people who want to support mental health,” Annie says. She notes that “every little bit helps,” and sharing information about the fundraiser and SunBean is also a huge boost.  

“This is so much more than just great coffee, or just us starting a business,” she continues. “It’s us creating a platform to do good where we see there’s a need, to have a big impact in the community—whether that’s where we source our beans and having shade-grown coffee from happy farmers, to being sustainable with our takeaway containers, to who we’re hiring, to who we’re bringing into the coffee shop, to what we’re doing with our proceeds, to being a connecting space. All of that stuff is really important to us.”

SunBean Coffee Shop
4553 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis
Opens fall 2023

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