Farside Coffee blends art, espresso and conversation

The temporary shop works to build community in Prospect Park and bring life to a historic building.

Sam Frantz makes sparking lilac lemonade for a customer at Farside Coffee in Minnespolis, Minnesota on Saturday, June 22, 2019. 

Jasmin Kemp

Sam Frantz makes sparking lilac lemonade for a customer at Farside Coffee in Minnespolis, Minnesota on Saturday, June 22, 2019. 

Becca Most

The atmosphere of Farside Coffee is quiet, save the soft whirring of an espresso machine or the light chatter of customers settling in with a mug of coffee or a glass of lilac lemonade.

One thing noticeably absent is the clicking of keyboard keys or the inquiry for a Wi-Fi password — there isn’t one.

Open since May 31, Farside Coffee is a pop-up, a temporary cafe in the Prospect Park neighborhood. Farside Coffee will only be there until the end of the summer, taking over the spot where beloved T-Rex Cookie was until last December. 

Part coffee shop, part art installation and part gathering space, the cafe was designed to encourage customers to slow down their day-to-day lives and take time to talk to one another.

“We don’t want the same feel as a Starbucks, or even another local [coffee] shop around the cities,” said owner Sam Frantz, a University of Minnesota alumnus who graduated in May. “We really want to design a space where people can challenge themselves and be challenged to communicate with others in a way that’s a little uncomfortable at first.”

Unlike your average coffee shop, Farside has no to-go cups or single-use items like napkins.

Half of the cafe is also taken up by an enormous homemade Faraday cage, a wooden box with mesh designed to block all electromagnetic signals, including cell service.

“I don’t think humans were meant to continue to go, go, go — I just think it’s not sustainable,” said barista Kate Mattison, a University junior studying entrepreneurial management and marketing.

She said taking time to slow down can help prevent burnout and can foster relationships without using social media, which can be damaging to people’s mental health.

Inside the cage rests a bookshelf, a piano and several chairs for customers to use at their leisure. An outdoor patio sometimes hosts small, intimate concerts or book club meetings.

Frantz said the location was an important factor in developing his vision for Farside Coffee.

The coffee shop resides in the historic Art and Architecture building, which will be converted to a retail and residential space by the end of the summer.

The space is right next to the iconic Witch’s Hat tower and is home to an antique store, several artist lofts and a children’s theatre company.

 

“It’s really been a hub of culture for the Prospect Park area,” Frantz said. “Especially since it’s one of the last surviving buildings in the area amongst the [retail] developments.”

He said it breaks his heart to see other tenants give up hope on the space, but is optimistic the shop will give the building a new life, even if it’s just for a couple months.

The pop-up nature of the shop is not only reflected in the temporariness of the space, but also in the versatility of the menu.

Each month that Farside is open, the menu will have a specialty drink based on a different Minnesota wildflower that’s in season — this month features a sweet mint lilac lemonade.

The flowers are grown locally (so local the lilacs are even harvested on the patio) and tie back into the idea of using the materials found in the surrounding community and making something beautiful with them.

“[We’re] very much capitalizing on [the fact that] this is all temporary,” Frantz said. “This is not going to be a staple you’re going to call home. That’s because the building itself is not that way. The area itself is adapting to whatever’s around it. [Farside Coffee] offers as a commentary on that.”