Just three months into their new business venture, Penny and Micki Agar have made their mark on the Mocha Moose on Highway 61 just south of Two Harbors.
The mother-daughter business partners purchased the coffee shop in late November.
"This is a place where I always came," Penny said, adding that she often stopped at the Mocha Moose after long bike rides up the shore.
While Micki, Penny's daughter, has worked in the hospitality industry for years and Penny counts cooking as one of her passions, neither had experience owning a business or operating a coffee shop. Micki studied interior design in Minneapolis and Penny was a florist and a hairdresser. Despite their inexperience, they've thrown themselves into their new undertaking.
"It was just an opportunity that presented itself. It was a chance for change...an adventure," Micki said.
They started their adventure with an overhaul of the interior. They repainted the walls, tore up the floor, scrapped the furniture and gathered odds and ends to refill the open, modern space. They bought some of the furniture at local shops and one table-and-chair set was an antique find. The armoire against the wall is a refurbished piece from Penny's house and a set of chairs sitting around a butcher's table are old pieces from a patio set that Penny tore apart, spray-painted and reupholstered. Scattered décor and art pieces are largely handmade by locals and available for purchase.
Next was the menu--they started with the required coffee drinks and have been adding new items since they opened in late December.
"The previous owner started something wonderful," Micki said, and she added they hope to maintain the high-quality coffee and friendly service for which previous owner Patti Rowray and her staff were known. They have, however, been imprinting their own style with an extended menu that includes appetizers, beer and wine offerings and a local focus. The coffee they serve is roasted in Duluth at the Duluth Coffee Company and their beer options include Borealis Fermentery brews, created just down the road in Knife River.
"We're really trying to focus on keeping (everything) local," Micki said.
Once the snow melts, the Agars said they hope to plant an organic garden to supply some of their food and a walking garden for patrons to enjoy. Other ideas for the future include coffee tastings and presentations about how coffee is produced, start to finish -- "the science behind it," said Micki.
Though winter is often a difficult time for businesses in the tourist-driven economy of the North Shore, Micki and Penny said that opening in winter was part of their plan. Business has been steady, but the off-season sluggishness allows them to learn their business and adjust their offerings to customers' tastes without the added pressure of tourist season.
"It's a lot of work, but really fun," Micki said.
The Mocha Moose grand opening will be held the weekend of Grandma's Marathon. In the meantime, they're open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at 543 Scenic Drive, just six miles south of Two Harbors. Follow their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mochamoosemn to learn about specials.