A photo hanging on the wall of Caffe Aroma’s north location reads: “Don’t be like the rest of them darling.” This has become the mantra for the coffee shop’s latest owners.
“There are some amazing coffee shops in the area … We’re creating a brand in a Starbucks, Caribou kind of industry,” said Tina Wetzel of her brand based on neighborliness and customer service.
Two best friends from central Minnesota bought the longtime local business in June 2015 and have grown it into a second location and catering business.
“They came in with energy and enthusiasm,” said commercial Realtor George Yineman, who listed many of the spaces in the Copper Ridge building where Caffe Aroma north is located.
When her husband went to work for Bobcat, Wetzel started shopping around for her own business. She knew Emily Burrows from a restaurant she had managed. They joked over the phone about Burrows moving to Bismarck to open the coffee shop together.
But two days later Burrows called back to say let’s do it.
The pair spent a year and a half in the coffee shop’s former Logan building location before opening up down the block in the former Impact Gallery in December.
“It was the hardest block we’ve ever moved,” said Burrows of the blizzard that hampered their progress.
They like their downtown location, complete with open mic night events, Saturday night jam sessions, eclectic hand-me-down furniture and local art hanging on the walls, which they joke covers up their amateur paint job.
But they’ve found a niche on the north side, too, allowing the friends to get to know a new group of people, Burrows said.
They have found that the space they have in Copper Ridge is like a locally owned oasis in an area mostly dominated by big box stores. In the Copper Ridge strip mall, there is also Karmin’s Kitchen Table, a local dentist and a local eye clinic, to name a few, which fit with the friends’ goal of supporting other local businesses.
“If you expect locals to support you, you have to support local as well,” Wetzel said.
They’ve paired up with Mighty Missouri Coffee to make their own blends to serve in their shops. Sweet Treats and Dakota Nuts and Candy provide desserts and Concrete Daisies provides flowers.
“North just keeps getting better,” said Wetzel, adding a book club meets in the northern location every Wednesday.
“They absolutely know what the demand is downtown and they’re taking that same approach up north,” Yineman said of the women who he calls “intuitive millennial entrepreneurs who see opportunity and expound upon it.”
Yineman said the north coffee shop has become a gathering space for residents of nearby age 55-plus housing developments.
“One lady comes in and then goes out and tells all her friends,” he said. “It’s become like a gathering space for that community.”
And he agrees with the women about the Copper Ridge being a local and regional strip center, adding that the demand for those neighborhood spaces is present across the Bismarck-Mandan community.
“They rely on those rooftops that are nearby,” Yineman said, as well as serving the 300 employees in office buildings nearby.
Still the friends say customer service is how they stand out.
“You become your product,” Wetzel said, and they’ve passed that on to their young employees, showing how far eye contact and conversation can go in building a business.
The pair also has changed up the menu with new wraps, sandwiches and soup, as well as adding natural juices and protein shakes. They added beer and wine to the downtown location this past summer.
Catering makes up 30 percent of their business and Wetzel said people are amazed to find out what they can do with a plate of food.
The two friends said they continue to take things day by day in their business venture to keep it going and growing.