On the edge of The Edge: YaYa contemplates closing St. Paul coffee shop

Photos by Kristoffer Tigue

If you know The Edge Coffee House on University and Raymond in St. Paul, you know Patricia Y., or YaYa, as her patrons all know her. With an array of local artwork and photography lining the walls, and an eclectic collection of chairs, couches, lamps and tables, the small St. Paul café somewhat resembles a living room more than a place of business — but the local haven that many have come to know as a second living room may soon be coming to an end. YaYa is thinking of throwing in the towel.

The Edge Coffeehouse 2399 University Avenue West Saint Paul, MN 55114
(651) 641-1656

The area has been home to many independently women-owned businesses. Among them, YaYa and The Edge have become a fixture in the community, since she opened shop three and a half years ago. On Yelp.com, her store is littered with local reviews praising the shop and YaYa, herself. Every Saturday afternoon, dozens of bluegrass musicians gather to practice and perform. Even the name YaYa has become synonymous with the store, as any of the many regulars who order the popular McYaYa breakfast sandwich can testify.

Unfortunately, the regulars aren't enough, according to YaYa, and she thinks she's about to call it quits.

The University Avenue storefront has had a long history of coffee shops, says YaYa. Before The Edge, it was a café known as The Artist's Grind. Before that it was the Prairie Star, yet another café. Before that it was Susan's, the original café, says YaYa.

But by the time YaYa took over the café in early 2009, the economy had begun to fall apart.

"I was immediately rebuilding from the start," said YaYa, who had worked out a deal with the previous owners, essentially paying them rent and inheriting all the equipment. Even on her best days she seemed to only be breaking even, she recalls.

Then in 2011, the light rail construction began in front of her store, taking away all of her street parking, and YaYa saw a 60 percent drop in sales. Since then, she's been merely attempting to pay rent, she says.

"I can't be blamed for the evacuation of the area," she said. "It's hard to catch up once you fall behind. I call it Highway University," she continued, referring to the lack of street-side parking, "It's like a shop in the middle of the highway."

The small loan she received from LRT last year was gone immediately, she says, and as her finances continued to remain stagnant, YaYa picked up a second job as a bartender, and even considered selling the Prospect Park home where she has lived for more than 20 years.

The other week she painted "Ready 2 Go," on her beverage cooler, admitting publicly her thoughts of leaving, something she dreaded having to do.

"If I leave here, it's sort of a divorce," she said. "It's going to affect everybody — I don't want to leave them."

While the exact date of her departure is still unknown, she says she most likely won't last more than three more months. When it finally happens, she might go back to bartending, she says, just one of the many different jobs she's held throughout her life, including banking, working for the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, producing radio and video, and even working as a DJ. That's where she first got her nickname as DJ YaYa back in 1992.

"I'm like on the edge of The Edge right now," said YaYa. "It's time to reassess, big and small, of which direction to go."

It's not entirely bad that she's leaving, she says, laughing, explaining that while she won't miss staying up all night thinking about what soups to serve or how she is going to pay rent that month, she will miss her customers.


Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

  • Sad story. Well written article. I am now sorry I didn't go there. Why she didn't advertise in the Bugle is beyond me. Hope she's okay. - by Richard Young on Sat, 04/13/2013 - 10:04pm
  • OMG! YaYa here and I'm in shock right now from all I"ve just read in this article! I have served Chris(the author of article) as a client for 3+ years and expect a bright future friendship for years to come, but, this artiicle conveys many misrepresentations of what I had actually said, on or off the record. My thoughts and words are very important to me. Ii've always been a firm believer in speaking for one's self, not letting anyone speak for me and this is one very good reason why! I had asked to read the article before print but was told it was not allowed. Too bad. I've been telling loyal clients, as they've been coming in to say sorry I'm closing, that I have not made any statements or given any notice that I intend to close! I'm shocked and shaken that an interest in writing an article would take such liberties with private business matters, client relationships, facts and public notices on my behalf. I really should have just said no to the interview having seen how it came out. One example of the twist on the facts: I painted my self-service cooler sign when I took over the shop, not weeks ago in response to the sad state of business. It was a creative artistic project, playing on the show Life on Earth After Humans Are Gone. The Edge Coffee House, I shared, stands for the edge of time, space and reality and is also rendered artistically on my awning as a clock with the four directions. Yes, I took over the shop after the Obama election and the economy fell apart and many of my client lost their jobs, left the area and/or were of course dramatically effected, we all were dramatically affected. And light rail has been a killer to numbers on monthly statements. I worked harder but remained hopeful and optimistic. For the first time recently though I have started looking at my situation differently, soberly and realistically (the reality of time space and reality is rearing its head). I have lost sleep not over soups but because I've felt torn about what to do with things as they are. To all my loyal and caring clients, yes everyone including me has to make ends meet every month but my daily goal is providing for my clients friendly service and satisifying products that meet their needs. I serve a small business and residential community. When people leave the area it affects business. But everyday new people come in and enjoy The EDGE! I love all my clients old and new and if they know me they know that for sure. I'd write more now but I have to get back to my busy days work agenda, this was not on my plan today to have to quell fears, allay bad feelings, I feel like a guest at my own funeral. All this should come as quite a shock also to my buildings management as I have not had any conversations with them yet as to my plans. I have been sorting through many thoughts and feelings about my future, and that has always included how I care about and serve this community. But all decisions are up in the air. The future is yet unclear so I'm sorry that Chris has jumped the gun and called it quits for me. Yes, time will tell what remains to be seen of The EDGE Coffee House but please don't tell folks I'm calling it quits before those decisions have been made definite! I know Chris meant no harm by this article but allowing someone to read what you plan to print first could save a lot of misrepresentations, misstatements and information that really nobody needs to know, which they still don't cuz the story got told wrong.period! Thanks for caring and I'm still open for business as usual! And Saturdays Ol' time music jam starts at 9am and I close at 1 on Saturdays. I tell folks when they get up and go its over. So come on by and bring a friend. Peace and Love, YaYa. - by Michael Neil on Thu, 07/26/2012 - 2:13pm
  • If you are having a meeting near University and 280 stop in and support YaYa and the Edge coffee shop. - by Chris Ferguson on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 10:54pm
  • This would be sad. The idea that a coffee shop serve that corner forever is one I’d embrace. I noticed the other day while looking for a cuppa that the shop was closed. That the parking is now gone has to hit little shops like this badly. Yes, people can park right around the corner in many places and in the parking lot next to “her” building, and that needs to be advertised right out front, and access to that lot made easier. I hope she can stick around to see how business goes once the LRT is running. - by Andy Driscoll on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 9:20pm
  • "The small loan she received from LRT last year was gone immediately..." Small loan does not mitigate loss of onstreet parking, 60% drop in business. Beyond sad..... - by Linda Winsor on Thu, 07/26/2012 - 6:50am
  • Yesterday was my first visit there and I fell in love with your shop! I definitely plan on coming back. Your shop is wonderful! - by Joni Wermerskirchen Bonnell on Thu, 07/26/2012 - 5:24pm

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ktigue's picture
Kristoffer Tigue

Kristoffer Tigue (kristoffer [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is a freelance writer and a stand-up guy.

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bullshit

This article was written by a want to be journalist. the context as to which he portrays YAYA is most definetly harsh. Get a life man and possibly consider a new career! 

I love the Edge Coffee

I love the Edge Coffee shop!!! I think its a wonderful place and a great atmosphere.  I think alot of people are misleading and don't understand what it takes to run a buisness.  I honestly dont care for some reporter's and in this case not for the one that wrote this article.  This reporter should of let Yaya proof read this article before posting it.  Yaya is an amazing person and does very well for herself.  She loves her shop and her customers!!!!!!  For all the reporter's out there if your going to do an article on someone or there buisness be professional make sure you are writing down what people are really saying.!!!!!!!!  If you don't understand make sure to ask questions and get the correct information before posting it.  

What are you all talking about?

Not only did I report this out of respect for YaYa, but I'm a loyal customer of hers for 3 years. Where on earth did you get that I was disrespecting YaYa's abilities to run a coffee shop?

So, when I wrote her saying:

"If I leave here, it's sort of a divorce," she said. "It's going to affect everybody — I don't want to leave them."

I was showing how she doesn't love her shop and customers? Really, what are you talking about?

Oh you probably mean when I wrote:

If you know The Edge Coffee House on University and Raymond in St. Paul, you know Patricia Y., or YaYa, as her patrons all know her. With an array of local artwork and photography lining the walls, and an eclectic collection of chairs, couches, lamps and tables, the small St. Paul café somewhat resembles a living room more than a place of business — but the local haven that many have come to know as a second living room

Right? Because that obviously portrays YaYa as someone that isn't valued by her customers or values her customers (I'm being sarcastic in case you're too dense to tell).

Did you even read the article? And for everyone's information, having a person proofread an article before you publish it is called PR, not journalism. I got all my facts right, I told the story the way YaYa told me during our interview. I've already talked with YaYa about it, so put the claws away.


The fact of the matter is YaYa is a wonderful individual under sub par conditions because of the economy and the light rail construction, and she's struggling to keep the shop together. She may regret having that knowledge public NOW, but she didn't stop me when I interviewed her on the matter and never told me not to print about it. We don't let people we interview dictate what we print, because that is unprofessional journalism. Get over it. I love YaYa, but the people that are criticizing me have no idea what they are talking about.

Dear YaYa,   Just a note to

Dear YaYa,  

Just a note to reassure that what I understood from the article was that you might be closing - not that it was a definite decision - and the bit about you staying up thinking about what soup you were making - didn't come off (to me) that you were losing sleep, but as the business owner never really gets to leave work thing.  I did notice inconsistancy in the writer's language as to if the closing were a definite decision or a consideration/worry for you - but I chalked that up to writing issues.  Lots of people seem to waiver back and forth in their writing these days (sadly).  I'm not meaning to insult the writer - I've just noticed overall in the writing community a difficulty in keeping consistancy in tense.  I wonder how anyone could have a policy of not allowing a proofing/approval of an article - that seems very strange.  But whatever was misrepresented/confused/what have you - I imagine this article will be good for bringing in business - a very good thing :)

Hatin' on TC Daily Planet

I am not a customer of Edge Coffee (I live much closer to other indie coffee shops). I don't know YaYa or Kristoffer (the reporter), so it's not like I have a bias or an axe to grind with either of them.

My take is that this was a fair article. Edge is in financial trouble. I didn't see that YaYa was taken to task for her level of financial savvy or poked at for her efforts in keeping Edge going. If anything, it would have been helpful to have information on efforts YaYa made to get concessions on rent or where the LRT grant money went, but Kristoffer really could get that information only from YaYa.

It would be sad for Edge to close; it puts a lot of regulars out of their "third place" and it's a notable setback for YaYa. But Edge would not be the first coffeehouse to fail at that location. There's nothing unfair or "bullshit" about stating that. And I congratulate Kristoffer for not making this article yet another "the Light Rail is killing University Ave" dirge. Business has been declining at a few University Ave businesses since The Great Recession started well before LRT construction did; maybe the construction hasn't helped, but so far no one has been able to point to a business failure caused *solely* by LRT construction.

Oh, and *real* reporters do not let their story subjects review or approve their copy. If there's an error in the article, it needs to be pointed out and reported. But letting subjects review? Might as well just print content-free press releases.

I really don't think that the

I really don't think that the journalist is a want to be journalist or should get a new career. It sounds as if he has taken a completely professional approach about the misunderstanding, and as someone who is being interviewed, they should know that it is a journalist's job to put whatever is being said in the article from the interview.

 

As I was reading it, I felt as if Kristoffer was very supportive of Yaya and The Edge, and did not mean any harm. It also says right in the title that "Yaya CONTEMPLATES closing down" so I really don't see why he is made to be such a bad guy. It's not directly said. As a busines close to the lightrail construction, it makes sense that a coffee shop owner of a small business would be going through some struggles. This article should be an opportunity TO SUPPORT LOCAL rather than bash the reporter!!

no need to blame the reporter

I am personally confused on why all of these people are blaming this reporter and calling him a "want to be journalist." From what I have read, it sounds as if his approach is completely professional, and he has full support of YaYa and The Edge. He was just doing his job. If he was supposed to leave things out of this article, it should have been made clear to him. If there was a misunderstanding, it cannot be completely taken out on him. From what I have read from this, he seems to have great support for this place and the people there. He never said directly that The Edge was going to end. He used quotes and pictures from The Edge, and made it very obvious how much Yaya loves her customers. I wish people would get their facts straight before insulting someone in their writing and professionalism

PR versus journalism

Kristoffer followed our policy absolutely - no one gets "approval" of an article before it is published. Articles go to the editor, not to the person who is the subject of the article. That's been a subject of a lot of comment not only on this article, but also across the country over the past week. 

Part of the discussion is about politicians who refuse to be interviewed unless they are guaranteed "quote approval," a practice that is just plain bad journalism. A second part of the discussion is about giving a story to the subject of the story for review prior to publication.

Our policy is similar to the policy set out by the Washington Post: "But it is against our policy to share drafts of entire stories with outside sources prior to publication, except with the permission–which will be granted extremely rarely–of the Executive Editor or Managing Editor."

If you are interested in the whole debate over quote approval and story review, see this article in Poynter and this article in MinnPost.