After a grand opening in late 2020 in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood, Wildflyer Coffee isn’t just serving up specialty coffee. The mission-driven café is also a nonprofit, and it’s dedicated to combatting youth homelessness through comprehensive job training.
Admittedly, it took a little while to get to this point.
“COVID-19 massively put things on hold,” says executive director Carley Kammerer. Originally, the plan was to launch the brick-and-mortar space in March of 2020. And yet, in the midst of a global crisis, a place like Wildflyer has proven more necessary than ever.
“The scariness of opening a coffeehouse during a pandemic was outweighed by the need to continue our mission, when we received our highest level of requests ever for employment,” Kammerer says. With unemployment and the rate of homelessness soaring nationwide this year, job opportunities are especially scarce for those lacking much job experience.
After a few years working as a cart operation at Twin Cities farmers’ markets, Wildflyer announced it would take over the old Peace Coffee space on Minnehaha Avenue in November. Before then, staff moved quickly to expand operations, training, and mentoring, while working to ensure that a physical storefront would be possible in the coming months.
The concept of linking coffee with job training began as a passion project for Kammerer in 2015. At 23 years old, she was working with youth as a case manager in the Twin Cities. From 2017 to 2019, she started pairing job training with coffee service, using a mobile coffee cart that made frequent appearances at the Linden Hills Farmers Market.
That summer, she set her sights on a more permanent space. To fund the idea, the Wildflyer team hosted small events, such as readings, beer tastings, and latté art contests. Within five months, Wildflyer surpassed its goal of $165,000.
Youth come to Wildflyer through shelters and drop-in centers, and are selected to join a six-month cohort. To date, Wildflyer has trained 15 youth via its mobile cart operation. Now that the coffeehouse is officially open, Wildflyer will expand cohorts to support 20 to 25 youth per year.
Wildflyer Coffee is located at 3262 Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis, open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week. For further information, contact 612-236-4978.