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Black Coffee and Waffle Bar closing, Vitality Roasting opening in its place

Vitality Roasting will open a coffee shop in Black Coffee and Waffle Bar’s Como location after working with them since 2018.
Image by Shalom Berhane
Black Coffee and Waffle Bar bid farewell after 10 years on Sunday, making way for a fresh start: a new coffee shop in Como.

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar’s 24-year-old Como location closed Sunday and will be replaced by another coffee shop, Vitality Roasting.

Vitality Roasting is a Minneapolis-based coffee roasting company with a cafe currently open in the Minneapolis Skyway. Black Coffee and Waffle Bar had served customers since 2005 before closing on Sunday. There is no set date for Vitality’s opening in Como. 

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar district manager Katie Essler said the restaurant’s owner is a long-time Como resident and recognized the need for both a coffee shop and a sober space. 

“There aren’t a lot of sober spaces necessarily so we were seeking a local brand, hopefully, a coffee brand, to kind of fill the void that we were going to leave,” Essler said.

Saying goodbye to Black Coffee and Waffle Bar

The driving force behind the closure was the building’s subpar condition. During the winter, the ventilation and insulation were below standards for a restaurant at that capacity, Essler said.

“We tried to address it over the years but we were never able to be closed long enough to make the significant repairs and improvements that were needed to the space,” Essler said. “I think the closure now transitioning between Black Coffee and Vitality, I assume a lot of that will get addressed and that will be better for the building moving forward.”

The inability of the Como location to attract customers like their newer locations also played a role in its closure, according to Essler.

“Everyone likes the new big thing and there is some comfort in seeing the old names on the stores when you walk by, but it doesn’t have the same broad appeal,” Essler said.

The owners of Black Coffee and Waffle Bar bought the Como shop formerly known as Muddsuckers in April 2014. After business went down, they rebranded years later to only serve waffles and coffee instead of their previous expansive menu, Essler added. 

The use of local roasters and higher-quality espresso machines originally helped turn the business around, according to Essler.

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar was a staple in the University of Minnesota and Como community as their business mainly consisted of locals and the University community, Essler said. The business had long worked with the local neighborhood association and University Greek life, primarily hiring University students.

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar also has locations in Roseville, St. Paul and Fargo, North Dakota. The Como location was the original, but they expanded to St. Paul in 2016, Fargo in 2019 and Roseville in October 2022. 

“The owner always had his eye out for good opportunities, but it became apparent in the first year operating under the Black Coffee and Waffle Bar name that we weren’t going to be able to serve all of the existing customers from that one location, it was just too small,” Essler said.

From Black Coffee to Vitality Roasting

Vitality Roasting’s first clients included Black Coffee and Waffle Bar and Cosmic Coffee, said Vitality head roaster Maddison Spall. While Vitality began roasting in 2018, their first cafe opened in downtown Minneapolis in 2021.

Spall said when Vitality found out the location was closing, they figured opening there would help them branch out and find a new customer base.

“The skyway downtown, we see a lot of traffic from big businesses downtown, people working in the offices down there,” Spall said. “The Como location is just such a central location for students and just a different demographic generally.”

Essler said the tradition of coffee shops in that space played a big role in choosing Vitality.

Liam Casement, a part-time University student who has worked at Black Coffee and Waffle Bar since 2019, said he started working there because of the proximity to his house but stayed because of the people and environment and plans to return once it reopens as Vitality. 

“It’s a small business, it’s not a corporate-owned place,” Casement said. “It’s nice to just have a place that’s like, ‘I know the owner and if I have a problem I can talk to him about it.’”

Vitality Roasting initially began as an entirely female-operated business. While this is no longer the case, Spall said empowering women in a male-dominated industry is important.

“It’s a cool industry to be showing other girls and women that they can do these kinds of things too,” Spall said.

Vitality Roasting hopes to bring new vitality to Como coffee

Spall said she plans to bring new life into the building by repainting, reorganizing and redecorating.

“I want the space to feel really bright and inviting and lively,” Spall said. “It’s going to be painted like lighter colors and have some plants in there.”

Spall said Vitality is about highlighting specialty coffees and making them accessible to people.

“I want to show the world that coffee can taste really good and can be really exciting and fun,” Spall said. 

Vitality is working with producers and importers at Honduras-based Cima Cafe to create their Los Encinos natural coffee, according to Spall. Los Encinos is a light roast with notes of raspberry, wine and jam.

Alongside that roast, they offer a variety of fruity light roast coffees and dark roasts for the average “cup of joe” kind of person, Spall said. 

Casement said Black Coffee became a place where students would study, drink coffee and hang out after class. Spall added she hopes to emulate that environment for students while bringing new life into that space. 

Essler said Black Coffee and Waffle is sad to leave Como but hope the community is happy with the transition and loves Vitality as much as they do.

“While it was time for Black Coffee to kind of give up the corner, I don’t think we feel or the neighborhood feels that it was time for our industry entirely to leave that corner,” Essler said.

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