SENA News has had its eye on Keen Eye Coffee (2803 E. 38th St.) since it opened in the fall of 2013. Newsletter policy is to give a new business at least a year to establish itself before we write an article about it. When Keen Eye celebrated its first anniversary on Sept. 11, it became “eligible” for a feature story.
Keen Eye is located in the space formerly occupied by Tillie’s Bean. Husband and wife Randy and Ann Erickson, who live in the Powderhorn Neighborhood, learned that
Tillie’s was for sale from their mechanic at Action Auto. Although the Ericksons were already busy operating four Eddington’s Soup and Salad Restaurants in the Twin Cities, they could not resist the opportunity to own a completely furnished, independent coffee shop in an ideal location (close to the 38th St. light-rail station).
The entire Erickson family agreed on the decision to buy Tillie’s. Daughter Hannah suggested a new name (the family liked the alliterative sound of “Keen Eye Coffee”), worked on the shop’s logo, and repainted the walls. Son Caleb became Keen Eye’s baker. Daughter Kirsten, a student at Roosevelt High School, has worked as a barista. (Another son, Wesley, is attending college in Duluth and helps out when he’s in town.)
With Randy fully occupied running the Eddington restaurants, Ann became Keen Eye’s onsite manager. Keen Eye’s first year was also Ann’s first year ever as a solo manager. She is a physical therapist by training and still works one weekend per month at Fairview Southdale Hospital. While managing has been a learning experience and challenging at times, it’s also been fun, and Ann is happy to be in the neighborhood.
She feels Keen Eye is settling into its coffee shop role as a meeting place for friends and groups.
Thirty-eighth Street from Hiawatha Avenue to 23rd Avenue might be considered our neighborhood’s “Eat Street,” with several eating establishments located along the strip—The Cardinal Inn, Ted Cook’s 19th Hole, Keen Eye Coffee, Northbound Brewpub, A Cupcake Social, and Pilgrimage (formerly the Citizen Café). Ann noted that each eating establishment has its own niche, and the businesses work well together. For example, people might stop by Keen Eye for dessert and coffee after hamburgers and beer at Northbound Brewpub. An amazing example of business cooperation came when A Cupcake Social chose to serve specialty teas, not specialty coffees, in deference to Keen Eye’s business niche.
Keen Eye’s niche is lighter food options—homemade soups such as chicken wild rice, split pea, and tomato basil, and ham, turkey, and chicken wraps—all made with fresh ingredients. There’s a variety of coffee drinks, including the typical and not-so-typical.
For health-conscious customers, Keen Eye offers vegan, glutenfree, and dairy-free bakery choices and fresh fruit and salads. A breakfast menu is available until 10:00 a.m.
Keen Eye caters both to customers who are in a hurry and those who are more relaxed. Customers on their way to work can grab a salad for lunch. Keen Eye’s baristas are accustomed to filling to-go coffee orders for people who are sprinting to catch the train. For those customers who can stay a while, Keen Eye offers a quiet, comfortable environment in which to study, read a book, have a conversation, knit, or even play a board game. Ann loves that people come in and work on their computers while sipping a latte and munching on a goodie from the bakery case.
Table decorations are changed seasonally, and there’s always art on the walls. Every two months, Ann features the work of a different local artist, amateur or professional. Currently, the work of three students from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, including barista Alex Doty, is on display. Ann hopes to showcase and sell locally made crafts as well.
Keen Eye Coffee is open Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. You can reach the staff at 767-4649 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Check out Keen Eye on Facebook to see color photos of the shop’s desserts, salads, and drinks that will make your mouth water.