It started with a quick glimpse during my commute on the Metro Green Line: A black sign, soft white cursive spelling out “Farside Coffee,” and large-paned windows on the front of an old brick building. The sight tickled my aesthetic curiosity enough for me to visit that weekend.
I soon found out Farside Coffee is not only a summer pop-up café—it’s a social experiment with an emphasis on art, conversation, and technology.
The Faraday Cage
The most intriguing part of Farside’s interior space is the Faraday cage, which founder (and recent University of Minnesota grad) Sam Frantz designed and built himself with some help from his dad.
For those who don’t know, a Faraday cage—invented by English scientist Michael Faraday in 1836—is a grounded metal screen that surrounds a piece of equipment that excludes electrostatic and electromagnetic influences. (In this case, the screen creates an enclosed room.) Translation? It’s a room that doesn’t allow its occupants to receive electromagnetic signals from cell phones, Wi-Fi, radio, etc. which totally disconnects people from the digital world. People can use it to brainstorm, work on projects that take deep concentration, or rely on it to help them physically disconnect from everyday life.
“It’s all about delayed gratification and what we may lose in a culture that is against that,” says Frantz. “This project isn’t about becoming Amish [or being against technology]. We’re asking, ‘How do we begin a conversation and continue the conversation about what technology is doing to us?’”
Besides encountering the Faraday cage, newcomers can expect friendly hospitality, a pretty patio, local art, incredible coffee sourced from Wesley Andrews Coffee & Tea, a no tip policy, and a lack of disposable to-go cups. Visitors are encouraged to take a seat and enjoy beverages in house if time allows or to bring their own cup for a to-go order. Frantz is also looking into providing mason jars for people to borrow and then bring back at a later time.
For Frantz, the dream of opening his own coffee shop started last year during a summer spent in Los Angeles and a six-month-long trip to Costa Rica and Colombia, where he learned about a different side of the coffee industry.
“In my mind, [opening a coffee shop] was going to happen five years down the road. [I thought] ‘Oh, I’ll do math for a little bit, then I’ll go into coffee.’” he says. “But it was this past December that the wheels started turning again and conversations started happening with different people that had open spaces.”
Farside Coffee is located in the Art & Architecture building on University Avenue, where T-Rex Cookie was housed once upon a time. Above the space are art studios and next door is the beloved Art & Architecture showroom with salvaged architectural pieces, vintage lighting fixtures, and antiques.
“It wasn’t hard to make it look pretty,” one of the baristas told me during my first visit to Farside. And it’s true. The space works beautifully for the pop-up, with exposed brick walls and old, original wood floors. It does effortlessly what many Twin Cities coffee shops work so diligently to provide for its cafés: a minimalistic, rustic, simple space that transports its visitors to an alternative world where concentration, aesthetic, and good coffee intersect. The natural light and small accents, like the tiny potted plants on each table, do wonders to an already beautiful room.
There is a catch, however. The 99-year-old building is slated to expand into a 17-story tower with 128 rental apartments all built around the existing three stories. Construction is set to begin at the end of August, and Farside isn’t sure it has a future in the new development.
This didn’t stop Frantz from putting down (summer) roots, though. He ended up making connections with people and businesses in the area and connected with many of the studio artists in the Art & Architecture building. “They were really stoked about my project. No one was going to take a lease that is three months, no one was going to develop a space here,” Frantz says, laughing. “I was one of the few people that would jump on the opportunity, I would say.”
Thinking toward the future, Frantz is looking into northeast Minneapolis, St. Anthony Main or North Loop at the current moment. Farside’s current location in the Art & Architecture building will be open through August.
“The biggest hope I have is that [Farside Coffee] makes people stop for a second and start asking questions and continuing the conversation [about technology, habits, instant gratification] with themselves and others,” Frantz says. “Or just enjoy the space, and be fully present with someone else.”
For new drink specialties, hours, events, and updates follow Farside Coffee on Instagram.