Local leather lovers unite

Leather & Latte, Uptown’s new kinky coffee shop, nurtures the local leather community

Leather & Latte co-owner Luke Wallrich brews tea in a French press at the Uptown coffee shop on Sunday. Leather& Latte opened this location in October after receiving funding from Kickstarter.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Leather & Latte co-owner Luke Wallrich brews tea in a French press at the Uptown coffee shop on Sunday. Leather& Latte opened this location in October after receiving funding from Kickstarter.

Emily Eveland

Spencer Doar

As Mikayla Gustafson retrieved her café miel from the coffee bar, she turned to her friend Katrina Haugen and said, “I talked to this transsexual medium named Peppermint.”

Behind them, customer Peter Kelly giggled. It was Kelly’s second time visiting Leather & Latte, and he came prepared — wearing a leather baseball cap, tight leather pants and the leather jacket he bought from the boutique in the back of the shop.

“Leather is just a different form of drag,” he said.

Toward the front of the cafe, James Ferguson, a waiter at downtown’s Marin Restaurant & Bar, sipped on oolong tea brewed in a French press while working from his laptop.

“Facebook or [12] Step work, that’s what I do [here]. Or shoot the [expletive] with people,” he said. “And, of course, checking out guys.”

If you like a man in leather, Minneapolis’ Leather & Latte — the newest addition to the Twin Cities concept cafe scene — might be a perfect fit.

Minneapolis is no stranger to concept coffee shops. At Defiant Tattoo in Lyn-Lake, daring customers can simultaneously drink coffee and get inked. Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop + Coffee Bar in South Minneapolis offers coffee, bicycle gear and bike service — all under one roof.

But Leather & Latte has proved to be in a league of its own by not only doubling as a boutique and coffee shop, but serving as a safe and sober community space for the GLBTA community.

Leather & Latte is the brainchild of Luke Wallrich, who handles administrative affairs; Karri Plowman, the leather man and head designer; and Tynan Fox, a popular kink blogger who’s in charge of outreach and education.

Fox and Plowman previously housed Twin Cities Leather in a much smaller space in Loring Park and decided it was time to expand. Because both Wallrich and Plowman had experience with coffee houses, they decided to combine the concepts.

“When we were maybe halfway through the process, the community said to us, ‘You’re always doing these things for the community, why don’t you do a Kickstarter?’” Plowman said.

In September, Fox posted a 14-day Kickstarter asking for $11,000. Two weeks later, more than $15,000 had been raised. The new shop officially opened Oct. 23, 2013.

Before it was Leather & Latte, the Hennepin Avenue space was home to another coffee shop, Plan B, which was in less-than- stellar condition. Plowman said that the carpet was so packed with dirt, you could plant tomatoes in it.

Now, the space is hardly recognizable. It’s cleaner, brighter and more comfortable than ever. Plus, it’s home to a wide array of custom, high-quality leather products — many of which are made in-store by Plowman himself.

 “I’m Native American in heritage,” Plowman said. “I was married at one point, and so I used to make my daughters’ regalías out of buckskin.”

Plowman specializes in leather harnesses — which are commonly worn either for BDSM fashion purposes or play — but also offers free alteration for any product bought in the store. Additionally, Leather & Latte sells an array of jackets, leather pants, lubricants and utility kilts made by California-based Kilt This.

Two items that stood out were nestled away on a shelf near the alterations room. One was a leather strap with “SLUT” written backwards, for those interested in temporary branding. The other was a leather dog mask with a zipper for a mouth, presumably for the submissive.

For Ferguson, who was previously unfamiliar with the Twin Cities leather community, the store has sparked an interest that might not otherwise exist.

“The rules that are associated with the community teach you how to be a gentleman, which is completely contrary to what I thought it would be,” Ferguson said.

But Ferguson said he thinks Leather & Latte is first and foremost a coffee shop. Plowman swears by a solid dark roast, which is supplied by Roastery 7.

A Baker’s Wife  in the Powderhorn neighborhood supplies Leather & Latte’s pastries because, as Plowman put it, “it’s kind of important to use a bakery that’s not in your neighborhood.”

Natalie McKay, the shop’s head barista, took second place at last week’s Thursday Night Throwdown at Peace Coffee — where baristas compete to see who can make the best signature beverage.

And speaking of competitions, Leather & Latte produces “Mr. Twin Cities Leather,” which is set to take place on President’s Day weekend.

The Twin Cities winner will be trained in all things leather before going on to compete for the title of International Mr. Leather in Chicago.

Hang onto your harnesses, boys — it’s gonna get kinky.