While taking a bold stance on systemic fascism, Minneapolis’s Misfit expanded its business model beyond “just” coffee to offer alcohol, a full-service food program, and a heckuva lot more. Looking to the winter, founder Marcus Parkansky believes this move to expansion in the face of uncertainty may just be the ticket.
“Five years ago, we wanted to have a liquor license…” he tells City Pages.
But first, Misfit got hit by COVID like, well, the whole world.
And to survive that first wave of 2020’s WTF-ness, the company hustled like hell. They began offering new services for customers like local bike delivery. That resulted in their manager-roaster (who loves riding) logging 1,500 miles in a month, and only once having to bike to the airport for a delivery when the zipcode-based ordering system glitched. The shop also debuted a coffee subscription service, and began selling crowler-sized cans of cold brew to-go from the shop’s new walk-up service window – all of which remain available today.
Then Minneapolis took to the streets in response to George Floyd’s killing. During that time, Misfit dropped everything it was doing and boarded up in legendary fashion. The shop provided free coffee to the Whittier neighborhood, as well as at 38th and Chicago, in the process raising over $4,000 in donations that were distributed between the Minnesota Freedom Fund, Reclaim the Block, TakeAction MN, Black Visions Collective, and North Star Health Collective.
All the while, Parkansky had been doggedly pursuing that liquor license he’d wanted so many years ago, even as Mayor Frey banned bar seating. But about a month ago, all that work came together in the form of Misfit becoming an actual coffee bar.
And with that, Misfit nixed “Coffee” from its (former) name, and further distanced itself from the local artisanal coffee crowd.
“What we're doing in the Twin Cities with liquor and our coffee shop is kind of unheard of,” says Parkansky. “There's really no other primary focus coffee shops serving cocktails, you know? Most of them are more focused on the restaurant side of things.”
Misfit’s cocktail menu is displayed right alongside the madcap coffee drinks that first earned Misfit a cult following. Spirits mixed into specialty concoctions (like the Offbeet Disposition, made with Dampfwerk Herbal Rye, Campari, Sweet Vermouth, a beet shrub spritz, and bitters) or recognizable classics like negronis come from local distillers like Du Nord, Lawless, and Dampfwerk.
Of course, sidling up for a brew from Able, or a Lone Star tallboy are equally respectable options… as long as you take your cans directly to the shop’s colorful chair-strewn patio, and not right on down the sidewalk.
All this focus on liquids doesn’t mean that Misfit’s food is an afterthought, though. Working within the (very real) limitations at their (very old) space at 24th and Lyndale, they crank out everything from crepes to clubs, and mix things up with quality, rotating specials. A recent example of the latter? Brats from Lowry Hill Meats!
So how does shifting from beans to booze connect to wintertime survival?
“It's really tough for us because the space is super small,” he explains, of conversations they’re having with staff about their comfort levels as conditions change. Putting out a big awning with heaters to keep the existing patio cozy is a way to maintain what they’ve built this summer, without dancing around the capacity issue indoors, for staff or guests.
A hot, boozy winter drink menu keeps guests warmed from the inside, too, like an incentive. And for passersby who might need a little extra pep in their step? “We're gonna have a little focal point on walk-up shots at the window,” says Parkansky, who’s been thinking out of the box since day one. “People could just buy, like, an herbal spirit, be it Fernet or be Fireball, and just take a shot and walk away.”
And if the coffee shop’s shenanigans fail to entice guests when it gets really cold, Parkansky says he’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve. Without spilling the (coffee) beans (sorry), keep an eye turned toward Misfit’s production space and 3,000-square-foot warehouse, which could allow Misfit’s perennial imp to stack all the licenses he’s amassed since opening as a coffee truck way back when.
“We, luckily, again, have enough oddball things in our bag of tools to be able to really maneuver gray areas.”
2401 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis