Community is priority at St. Paul’s Caydence Records & Coffee

Cristin Noonan

Cristin Noonan

When you come to Caydence Records & Coffee, you’ll notice the moose first.

This shiny sanctuary at the corner of York and Payne Avenues is a combination coffeeshop and record store. It opened in St. Paul last October, and is the work of lifelong buddies and first-time entrepreneurs Mat Graske, Chad Medellin, and Gregg Schmitt. Overlooking the shop: a mounted taxidermied moose head named Elmo. He also graces Caydence’s official coffee mugs.

Graske’s dad was a janitor at a local bank back in the day and saved the moose head from going in the trash. For years, the taxidermied tête sat in Graske’s garage. Because Graske, Medellin, and Schmitt were literally in a garage band together, Elmo became a fixture of their practice sessions.

Today, the gang lives in a three-bedroom apartment above their business. “Just like how it used to be,” Medellin says, harking back to when it was common for independent shop owners to live above their enterprise.

Caydence flexes its 1,600 square footage well. There are a handful of small wooden tables and window seating where you can peer toward Payne Avenue while you sip on a yummy, well roasted cup of coffee or latte. They’ve bulked up on iced drink offerings as well, corralling lovers of concoctions both frilly and straight-up. On warm days, try their Iced Mint Mocha, tricked out with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, or their homemade cold brew coffee.

The coffee and espresso beans are roasted over on Vandalia Street, at Bootstrap Coffee Roasters. And blueberry scones from St. Agnes’ Bakery are baked fresh just a few miles away. Plated with farm honey and homemade whipped cream, the scone is a real treat.

It’s just one of the many ways Caydence seeks to build community on St. Paul’s East Side.

At its height, Payne Phalen was a bustling neighborhood of Swedish, Irish, German, and Italian immigrants. Toward the end of the 19th century, these new St. Paulites made their homes overlooking downtown and the Mississippi River. They molded Payne Avenue into a commercial strip, boasting everything from bakeries to butchers.

But in the ’70s, big businesses like Hamm’s Brewery, 3M, and Whirlpool left the area. More recently, massive foreclosures left the neighborhood a shell of its former self. 

Industry may have changed, but the people have remained. Today, the area welcomes a boom of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, who, along with longstanding St. Paul residents, are steadily working to revitalize the area.

The building that houses Caydence, vacant since Hot Fire Pizza served its last pie back in 2014, has been turned around DIY-style. Beautiful wooden record shelves, tables, and countertops, among many other accoutrements, were constructed by the trio of owners themselves. They’re a handy bunch of fellas: Medellin is a trained electrician, Graske has a degree in the culinary arts, and Schmitt is a computer technician.

"We're millennials so we're all about the side hustle," laughs Medellin.

They’re stocking a whopping 2,500 new and used LPs and 1,500 used CDs in the record shop part of the store. The selection at Caydence is highly curated, based mainly on the genres of punk, alternative, and metal, the sounds the owners are most familiar with playing.

The trio, all born and raised in St. Paul, are aiming for a true community space with Caydence: The back room hosts music shows (where 10 bands threw down this past record store day), local artwork, game nights, and potlucks.

Medellin is on the East Side Business Association, a board member of the Payne Arcade Business Association, and part of the District 5 Planning Council for Payne Phalen. He knows the business hasn't arrived on the scene in a vacuum. He’s committed to the neighborhood, its history, and its current residents.

"I think that the people around here deserve a lot more than they get," he says.

Caydence Records & Coffee
Tuesday-Friday: 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.