Blue Ox Coffee coming soon to 38th & Chicago

Following the commercial revival happening on South Nicollet Avenue, things are similarly picking up over on Chicago Avenue. Mike Stebnitz, Thom Pham's former business partner, is redeveloping a building at 38th Avenue and giving foodies a reason to stop on historically tumultuous stretch between the Midtown Global Market and the 48th Street intersection.

The charming 1920s-era building was designed by architect C. W. Farnham and is being rehabbed to include four residential units, and several storefronts inhabited by artist Wing Young Huie, and Melanie Logan's Blue Ox coffee shop. Referencing the neighborhood's youth-luring energy and affordability, Logan says, "It's going to be what Uptown first was when I moved back here in 97."

Logan says she started drinking her grandma's coffee as a toddler, worked as a barista in college, and was converted to specialty brews by an earth-tilting cappuccino at Kopplin's: "I am not exaggerating in any sense of the word," she says, "but I got high off of a cup of coffee from his shop. And it was like, 'wow this is the most amazing cup of coffee I have ever had'."

Logan's dreams of opening a coffee shop had been percolating for awhile when she connected with Stebnitz, who was looking to put a coffee shop in the building. There's nearly a two-mile third-wave coffee shop-free radius around the intersection and 30 percent of the hundreds of neighbors Stebnitz surveyed said that was the number one type of business they'd like to see come in.

This charming 1920s building will soon be brewing.
This charming 1920s building will soon be brewing.
Blue Ox Coffee via Facebook

After much research and consulting with Kopplins, Dogwood, and other local coffee purveyors, Logan found four roasters she wanted to work with, including Stumbeanos of Fergus Falls, who offered a high-quality product and equitable business relationships. "All the roasters that I will use are getting their coffee from farmers they've met or their importer has met and they know they're being fairly paid," she explains.

Logan says her coffees will be hand-poured via Hario V-60 single cup drip or Chemex equipment, and, for environmental reasons, she will not offer decaf. "The carbon footprint is pretty ridiculous," she says and explains the extra processing (beans must be sent to a facility for a chemical or water leaching process, then dried again, before being shipped to the roaster). The shop will also offer compostable cups and utensils and feature re-used furnishings, including pews from Gethsemane church and tables from a retirement home. Coffee will be the primary focus, but there will also be sandwiches and cookies.

Logan is also working on a few ideas to connect more with neighbors, including offering used tea leaves and coffee grounds to customers for compost and hosting a weekend morning story time where teachers come in and read children's books.

She says she hopes to begin the build-out in early May and open in June. And if she can hit her target date of June 11, the new shop will be her best birthday present yet.

Blue Ox Coffee 3740 Chicago Ave.

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