Alyssa Zaczek, firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. JOSEPH — At The Local Blend, Jeff and Stacie Engholm are serving up a whole lot more than your average cup of joe.
The couple has been brewing locally produced coffees alongside homemade scones, muffins, sandwiches and stews with a vegetarian twist since they purchased the coffee shop in 2007. The Local Blend is the winner of the Best Coffee Place category in the 2016 Best of Central Minnesota survey.
"It’s in our name – local and organic," Jeff Engholm said of the menu. "All of our ingredients are top-quality, as organic as possible, as locally sourced as possible, all of our music is local. It’s truly meant to be a center of the community, a part of the community."
The Times sat down with Jeff and Stacie to discuss what puts the jive in their java.
Question: Can you tell us about the changes you made after purchasing The Local Blend?
Stacie: We put in our own bakery and kitchen, so we could bake all of our muffins and stuff from scratch here. We starting making our own soups immediately, and adding a lot of vegetarian options to the menu.
Jeff: We also started the live music here; the previous owners never really did that, maybe once every three to six weeks. So we started the open mic and started doing regular music on the weekends. We just wanted that to be part of the zeitgeist of this place.
Question: Where does the passion for organic, local and vegetarian food come from?
Jeff: When we first met, we spent a summer working on an organic farm together. We had always been into composting and sustainability and self-sustainability.
Stacie: Yeah, I mean, I've been a vegetarian since I was 15.
Jeff: And I have been since I was 20 or 21. I got into it for the health end of things, she got into it for the political end of things, and it just sort of meshed well. We’re not 100-percent vegetarian here, but a remarkable amount of the menu is. All our soups are vegan, salads are all vegan, the pizzas don’t have meat.
Question: So, what would you say to people who are dubious about the food at an organic, locally sourced, mostly-vegetarian coffee joint?
Stacie: The thing is, I don't care whether or not people eat meat. It's just that the way I see it, if I were to serve locally sourced meat, I'd have to charge like $16 a sandwich. It just doesn't make any sense for the business or the consumer. And I also don't believe that people have to eat meat for every meal to feel satisfied.
Jeff: People are usually pleasantly surprised (by the vegetarian food); they just know that it’s good. It’s just as satisfying to them as a meal even though it doesn’t have meat in it.
Question: What's the most satisfying part about running The Local Blend?
Jeff: For me the happiest times are always when the place has a great musician on stage, it’s full and buzzing, everybody is having a good time and being entertained. That for me is the highlight.
Stacie: I like to feed people, and watch them enjoy their meals.
Question: One last question for you two! What's your go-to coffee order?
Stacie: Medium soy latte.
Jeff: Same! (Laughs) Simple as could be. No flavor. When they ask me if I want flavor in my coffee, I say I like the flavor of coffee!
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