New coffee shop opens in nearby Prospect Park

The shop appeals to those looking for another lunch option in the area.

by Diane White

Business has been flowing in steadily at Overflow Espresso Café since its soft-launch opening June 4.

The reason behind a soft-launch is to get all the kinks out before advertising to the public, general manager Kate Jensen said.

Despite no advertisements, word of mouth traveled fast, and the café has already racked up a few regulars, like Cindy Ronde.

Ronde said she heard about the café from co-workers and has visited the establishment at least five times.

Its popularity among Ronde and her nursing colleagues partially stems from the lack of other options in the Prospect Park area.

“I wish we had more places for lunch Ö there’s not as many on this part of campus,” she said, adding there’s only an Eddington’s and a Chinese restaurant besides Overflow.

However, convenience isn’t the only incentive.

“The coffee is really good Ö better than average,” Ronde said, defining average as the mediocre coffee served at big chains.

Beyond extra-fresh products and all-manual preparation, Jensen said Overflow plans to do a lot of work with local companies to further promote small businesses in Prospect Park.

The store is owned by Molly Barnhart and her father David Barnhart. He’s a silent partner and part owner of the entire building.

Prior to her father and uncle’s purchase of the building three years ago, Molly Barnhart said it housed Kemps Ice Cream headquarters. She said community support helped in purchasing the real estate.

“(David Barnhart) has chosen to be very involved in the neighborhood,” Molly Barnhart said, adding her father has owned real estate in the area for more than 20 years.

Overflow’s owners won over lifetime Prospect Park resident Melissa Miller. She said the Barnharts held a community meeting at Overflow shortly after its opening.

“The neighborhood is glad to have it here,” Miller said, referring to the café as tasteful and friendly.

With two floors of seating and intimate spaces to visit, Overflow offers an artful ambience. There is even a large-scale coffee-cup fountain, which Molly Barnhart said didn’t come easily to anyone working on it.

After a session of less-than-successful “Googling” for design ideas, Molly Barnhart said she began e-mailing University art professors.

Ceramics professor Tom Lane answered her e-mail and the two met in October to begin brainstorming.

They discussed the size, color and quotes to be engraved on the giant mug, Molly Barnhart said.

Lane found the piece difficult to throw on his wheel, though embossing the quotes letter-by-letter into the wet clay proved to be the most challenging part.

“There’s a human component to it, some letters are deeper Ö some even a bit crooked,” Lane said of his work.

The cup embodies the way the Barnharts think about life, Lane said.

“They’re good people Ö they want to do it right,” he said of their business’s presence in the area.

An example of their generosity can be seen outdoors on a large deck overlooking mild construction.

What began as an understanding with the city of Minneapolis to landscape a percentage of the lot turned into a pond, waterfall and creek.

“My dad took it to the next level,” Molly Barnhart said, adding that part of their effort is to beautify the mostly industrial area for residents and visitors.

The project is expected to be finished by the end of August.

Shortly after, the real action will begin with a week-long grand opening celebration in September.

Tentative plans include music, raffles and a jingle contest – the winning tune will likely be broadcast over the radio.

With the upcoming publicity, chains and other privately owned shops in the Dinkytown and Stadium Village areas have yet another coffee shop to contend with.

A Caribou Coffee opened a few months ago in Stadium Village.

Its manager, Mike Robideau, wasn’t particularly concerned about competition from Overflow but instead feels the heat from all other coffee shops in its proximity.

“Everybody brings something different,” he said, adding personality, atmosphere and specialty products are elements that enhance a customer’s experience.

In defense of chain coffeehouses, Robideau said Caribou operates under very stringent standards.

Rules include keeping coffee for only an hour and carrying a bag of beans no longer than 21 days.

“Chains just have a bad reputation Ö independent shops have a good following,” Robideau said, adding people believe chains are all about profit rather than quality.