Young entrepreneur buys Bemidji Dunn Brothers store and reopens it as The Coffee District

·3 min read

Aug. 12—BEMIDJI — When Dunn Brothers Coffee needed a new manager, 18-year-old Madi Stone was willing and ready to take on the job. When the business was up for sale this year, 21-year-old Madi Stone was ready again, this time as the new owner.

After a brief closure for remodeling, Stone opened the store last week with a new name: The Coffee District.

"She isn't afraid to take a risk," said Ken Howe, who has owned Dunn Brothers since it opened in 2005. "She's a real entrepreneur, and to me the most important quality to that is the ability to take smart risks. She's done that."

Stone grew up in Bemidji, where she was homeschooled. She took some college courses and got her first job at Dunn Brothers at age 16, attended the University of Minnesota for one semester after high school, and moved to Texas for a few months.

Meanwhile, she and Nick Hoover, her boyfriend and business partner, caught the entrepreneurial spirit and decided to return to Bemidji, where they purchased some rental properties and later bought Downtown Laundry.

"We moved back here, because there is no place like this little town," Stone said.

Asked about becoming business owners at such a young age, Stone said, "We just listened to a lot of audiobooks, a lot of podcasts. We went in the direction that felt right, whatever made us happy. So it's definitely a lot of time, a lot of hours and a lot of elbow grease."

She took over as manager of Dunn Brothers in 2020.

"This is like my home," Stone said. "I kind of grew up here in my teens. I wanted to get back into that group of people and find my roots again. During the pandemic, the previous manager was getting very burned out with the staffing shortage, the vendor shortages and all the chaos. So she asked if someone would want to take her place, and I was like, 'You know what, I'd do it.'"

When Ken Howe first asked Stone about taking over the business, Madi wasn't sure he was serious.

"It was a joke actually, at least in my perspective," she said. "He said, 'You're going to buy this place,' and I was like, 'Oh yeah, right.'"

But it actually happened this year, and after four long days and nights of remodeling, with help from Hoover and family members, The Coffee District opened last Friday. Stone said Nick came up with the name. She also decided on independent ownership instead of staying with the Dunn Brothers franchise.

"I'm definitely not a franchise person," Stone said. "I feel like this town is built off of small businesses, and I love that about it. I grew up going to the Cabin and Cantabria and Wild Hare. I just feel that's what makes Bemidji so special is we have so many unique businesses, and I wanted to be a part of that."

Howe said going with a franchise made sense when he and his wife Kari started the coffee shop.

"I needed that guidance to start out," Ken said. "I had been in business before, but not that kind of business. With Madi, she doesn't need a franchise because she's got that experience already. She has learned on the job. Being an independent makes sense for her, and this town will support independents."

Ken added that they built it because they thought it would be good for the community as well as themselves.

"We wanted to see it keep going in some fashion at that location," he left off. "Madi has the work ethic that you can see throughout everything she does. She takes ownership. She has just a ton of initiative."