WACONIA, Minn. (WCCO) -- For many of us, it's routine to stop in at the local coffeehouse before heading off on our day. But with a coffee shop on practically every corner, how do can you pick a favorite?
Well, we made you choose.
And your votes sent me to Waconia for a cup of joe at Mocha Monkey – a coffeehouse that happens to have a pottery studio in the basement.
"So, when you get a latte or a cappuccino, and if you're having it for here, then you're actually gonna get a mug that I made," said Jon Schmidt, the shop's owner.
It's not the most conventional business model. But, then again, Schmidt isn't a conventional business owner. He bought Mocha Monkey when he was just 21, halfway through his senior year of college.
"I was down at Gustavus [Adolphus College] Tuesday and Thursday, and I was here Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and every weekend. And so that's how the first part of my business [went]," he said. "I was going to school and taking over this business, and since then it's just been a great experience."
On the day I visited, Schmidt could count the mayor of Waconia as one of his customers.
"It's my office for meeting with my constituents," said Mayor Jim Nash. "Ya know, I spend a lot of time here, and so does everyone else. It's sort of a social gathering place."
A big part of what makes Mocha Monkey a gathering place is the building itself: It's a 100-year-old Victorian home right in the middle of downtown.
"It's been a ton of different things, from apartments upstairs, to a flower shop, to a tire shop," Schmidt said.
Currently, the coffee shop houses local art, including Schmidt's pottery. The cozy and creative atmosphere invites customers to make themselves at home.
"On any given day you'll see meetings here, high school kids doing homework, people working here by themselves, Bible studies, an array of different group that'll come," Schmidt said.
Of course, customers also come for the coffee. While the beans aren't roasted in house, they don't travel far.
"SpecialtyJava.com is what they're called," Schmidt said. "It's just a mile away from here, they fresh roast it. We order it the night before, and it comes still hot in the bags the next day."
There's also the creative concoctions, like the Rhesus Mocha Monkey, a chocolate and peanut butter mocha.
"People love that," Schmidt said.
The success of Mocha Monkey allowed Schmidt to open a second location in December, giving Waconians even more of an incentive to take their coffee break at Mocha Monkey.
"If you needed somewhere to go, ya know, we're here, and you can come hang out and drink some awesome coffee," Schmidt said.
In addition to supporting local artists, Mocha Monkey also has live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
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