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Amount of coffee shops in Mitchell make the town ‘unique and surprising’

Competition is brewing in Mitchell. There are five locally-owned, non-chain coffee shops and "box shops" in town, and at least 25 other fast-food joints, gas stations and restaurants that also sell coffee in Mitchell. "Box shops," a nickname deve...

Coffee. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Coffee. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Competition is brewing in Mitchell.

There are five locally-owned, non-chain coffee shops and "box shops" in town, and at least 25 other fast-food joints, gas stations and restaurants that also sell coffee in Mitchell.

"Box shops," a nickname developed by residents in the area, are coffee shops that are smaller in size and offer beverages and small food items in a drive-thru.

In recent years, three "box shops" popped up in Mitchell, along with three chain coffee shops.

Several of the local coffee shop owners agree the competition is good, but Mitchell may be hitting its capacity for coffee options.

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'A demand for convenience'

Neil Hardy, owner of the Grounded Espresso Bar on 700 E. Kay Ave., bought his "box shop" last June.

Even though Hardy has owned it for only a year, the Grounded Espresso Bar has been around Mitchell for three years, he said.

His shop, which mainly sells coffee, also has smoothies and "grab and go" items, Hardy said.

Grounded Espresso Bar is one of three "box shops" in town and Hardy said they all sell the same thing.

Hot Shots Espresso, located at 322 E. Havens Ave., and Bean Box, at 1500 N. Duff St., also has coffee, smoothies and other to-go items.

Shelby Holmberg, with the family-owned Hot Shots Espresso, said the majority of people going through their shop are moms on the go, and people who don't have time for lunch.

"There's definitely a demand and there's a demand for convenience," Holmberg said.

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At Hot Shots, Holmberg said the shop makes a lot of specialty drinks and teas. Blended lattes, Italian sodas, smoothies and hot chocolate are all popular.

Holmberg said Hot Shots has been around for three years now, but she's been in the coffee business for six years.

Holmberg said she also owns a boutique with a cafe inside, but the atmosphere and customers are completely different from Hot Shots.

And sometimes it's not about the coffee or the convenience at all, but the service provided.

Holmberg said she has five baristas working in her shop and people come specifically for their service, choosing an employee over coffee. This is creating competition not between coffee quality, but between baristas, Holmberg said.

Kara Johnson, the manager of Bean Box Espresso, said the nice thing about their shop is the location. Sitting in the parking lot of the Village Bowl, Bean Box sits "across town from everyone else," Johnson said.

Similar to the other two "box shops," Bean Box sells hot, ice and blended coffee, smoothies, Italian cream sodas and "tons" of other items. The shop also sells Daylight donuts.

Some of their most popular drinks include caramel macchiato and chai tea.

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Karmen McCain, owner of Cafe Teresa, which sits on Main Street, said when the first box coffee shop came to town, she "lost a chunk of coffee business," especially in the morning.

"I took a definite hit in my morning coffee business. Understandably, people don't want to get out of their car," McCain said.

Too much coffee?

Mitchell might be "getting to our threshold," Hardy said, as far as the amount of coffee shop options. And while competition is good, Hardy said there is no need for more coffee shops than the city already has.

"I say that our town is unique in fact that we're small enough and we still support the local person but yet big enough that we can all survive," Hardy said.

As far as reaching Mitchell's max for coffee shops, Holmberg said she would agree with Hardy. Prior to opening Hot Shots Espresso with her family, Holmberg worked at the Bean Box.

She remembers when the first Caribou Coffee, a chain coffee shop, first came to Mitchell as part of the County Fair expansion in 2012.

And in 2015, a second Caribou came to Mitchell, attached to the Anytime Fitness building. A third Caribou Coffee came to Mitchell earlier this summer.

Holmberg remembers asking herself how she and the other local shops will make a living with so many coffee businesses in town.

But she didn't have to worry for long. The addition of Caribou Coffee did the opposite of what local owners expected - business increased.

With the increased marketing for coffee in Mitchell, customers were becoming more aware of the shops in Mitchell, creating more business for the locally owned shops, Holmberg said.

People were going to the Caribou shops and getting a taste of what it was like, but they soon started venturing to other businesses for variety.

Gwenda Koch, co-owner of Cornerstone Coffee House and Deli located near Main Street, said the addition of the Caribou Coffee shops brought more people into her shop, just like Holmberg's.

Koch said increased competition from both Caribou and other locally owned shops was helping business all around. People like variety, she said, and having other venues was complementary.

Sonya Moller, the director of the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce, said it's good for Mitchell to have a variety of shops for not just residents, but visitors, too.

"It's no different than having multiple restaurants to choose from or clothing shops to choose from, or other services here," Moller said. "All of it is wonderful and it's making Mitchell a unique and surprising place."

Moller said it's good to have variety in any town, and the fact that all of these coffee shops are still able to make a living and be supported in Mitchell, is "a positive sign."

'Always in demand'

Managing Bean Box Espresso, Johnson sees how popular coffee is in Mitchell as people come and go through the shop each day.

"Coffee is always in demand," Johnson said.

The number of cups of coffee is hard to track, according to several coffee shop owners, but the best way to look at how much coffee is being consumed in Mitchell is through the amount of espresso beans.

For Grounded Espresso, Hardy said he orders 40 pounds of beans every two weeks to keep up with the demand. When he first started a year ago, he ordered 80 pounds of beans that would last four to five weeks, but now he orders 40 every two weeks for fresher beans.

"It's more of a personal preference," Hardy said. "I feel if I serve fresher product, then I have a better product."

For Hot Shots Espresso, Holmberg estimates the business burns through about 40 and 50 pounds of beans every two weeks.

For the two non-box shops sitting near Main Street, the numbers are a little different.

Both shops sell more than just coffee, offering breakfast and lunch menus.

For McCain at Cafe Teresa, she said she estimates her shop goes through 25 to 30 pounds of beans each week. But she said people come to her shop for more than just the coffee.

But for Cornerstone Cafe, Koch said their shops goes through 30 to 40 pounds worth of beans in one week.

Cornerstone has been in Mitchell for about 15 years, Koch said, and there were at least two owners before she, her daughter and son-in-law purchased the place six years ago. She credits the previous owners to helping building up the business.

"We inherited some good customers," she said.

Many of the coffee shop owners, including McCain, agree that Mitchell has reached it's max. Although McCain benefits a lot from tourism at her shop on Main Street, for a town of Mitchell size, there has to be a point when there are too many coffee shops, she said.

"I think we're capped out on coffee ..." McCain said. "If they put anymore in, somebody's going to get hurt."

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