Beans Coffee Co. taking over coffee brewing at Neutral Groundz

Sep. 18—When Deb Morin opened the Neutral Groundz coffee shop in North Mankato, she had a problem.

She didn't know anything about coffee.

So she reached out to Clay Sharkey, one of the founders of the Mankato-based Beans Coffee Co., and asked for help.

"Clay and I go back to the beginning," Morin said. "He's the one who taught me how to do all the coffees."

Because of that long-standing relationship — and because Neutral Groundz has been using Beans Coffee Co. coffee beans since the day it opened on Belgrade Avenue — Morin turned to them again when she needed a helping hand.

Morin announced a few weeks ago that she was discontinuing the coffee side of her business to be able to spend more time with her ailing mother. But within a few days, she announced she'd found a buyer for the coffee side of her business, and that coffee will continue to pour at Neutral Groundz.

At the time, she declined to name the buyer. But Monday on social media she announced that Beans Coffee Co. — owned by Sharkey and Eric Poppler, with head roaster Jon Michels — was taking over.

Also Monday, Beans issued this statement: "The shop will be reopening in early October as the 'Beans Coffee House' featuring a full line-up of coffee drinks hot and cold, and serving hot and cold foods from pastries, to sandwiches, salads, and soup."

Morin will lease space to Beans Coffee Co. She will continue to own the other side of the business, which sells clothing and home decor items.

Sharkey said Morin's desire to get out of the coffee business came at a good time. Beans Coffee Co., he said, had planned to establish a brick-and-mortar presence.

"A coffee shop had always been in our goals and plans, though not necessarily this quickly," he said. "We had built a pretty good relationship with (Morin). So when she contemplated her retirement, we were her first and only call as far as the coffee side."

Morin said it's the best possible outcome for both sides.

"They've always wanted a coffee shop. And they're excellent at what they do. I think they'll actually probably do it better than I did," she said. "And it frees me up to then spend some time in Arizona with my mom and deal with that situation."

Food and coffee offerings will remain mostly the same, but Beans Coffee House will introduce a few new items as well.

Beans Coffee Co. products can be found at Wooden Spoon, Mom & Pop's, Mankato Brewery, St. Peter Food Co-op, Pub 500 and other places. The company, which first began experimenting with a popcorn popper in a garage in 2011, also operates a mobile coffee truck that can be found each week at the Mankato Farmers' Market.

When Neutral Groundz announced plans to discontinue coffee, customers flooded Facebook with sorrowful comments. But within a day or so, Morin announced she'd found a buyer. The only questions left were who was the buyer, and when would they start serving coffee again.