After getting its start as a mobile coffee cart in 2017, Wildflyer, which employs and empowers youth experiencing homelessness, moved into a Longfellow brick-'n'-mortar spot in late December of 2020. Sales this year are up 40% from 2021, executive director Carley Kammerer tells Racket, and they're working with more young people, too: 25, up from 14 in 2021. Before long, "We should be able to serve about 30 youths every year at one shop," Kammerer says.
And soon that number will double, because Wildflyer is opening a second shop. The Indiegogo campaign just launched today, but it's already official: They're heading for 1362 Seventh St. W. in St. Paul.
Kammerer hadn't exactly planned to open another coffee shop so soon, but in February, Caroline Hood of RS Eden—a nonprofit that provides housing, mental health, and chemical dependency services, among other things—stopped into the shop.
RS Eden operates a housing unit for youth coming out of homelessness, and until the pandemic hit, that building was also home to Fresh Grounds Cafe. The cafe had closed in 2020, and Hood, RS Eden's president and CEO, had a proposal: Reopen in partnership with Wildflyer, which would expand the missions of each nonprofit.
Kammerer always hoped her shop would expand, though initially her reaction was one of hesitation. Yes, Wildflyer has been growing, but this is just year two. And between inflation and the ongoing pandemic and the growing pains every small business experiences...
"It's been a hard year, in the ways that it's been hard for everyone," she says. "But the more I thought about it, the more it was like, this would be so ridiculous to say no to."
Not only is the location literally located in a supportive housing unit for the very population Wildflyer serves, but RS Eden could provide more wrap-around services in things like chemical dependency and mental health. Plus, the coffee shop could act as an outward-facing hub to help folks who might be intimidated by traditional intakes to access services.
"It upwardly lifts everything we do," Kammerer says of the upcoming second shop, which is slotted to open by next March. The space has already been a coffee shop, which also helps—the buildout should be fairly straightforward. You can expect the same colorful branding that's splashed across Wildflyer's flagship location at 3262 Minnehaha Ave.
In addition to the Indiegogo campaign, the shop will also host a series of events, starting with a launch party tonight (October 14) at nearby Arbeiter Brewing Company (3038 Minnehaha Ave.) from 4 to 9 p.m. There's also a latté art throwdown on October 21 at Wildflyer’s Minneapolis outpost and a Rustica shop takeover on October 22 at Rustica Minneapolis (3220 W. Lake St.).
Kammerer is especially excited that the new location will let Wildflyer expand upon its existing wins. Since 2017, they've served 50 homeless kids and teens; 80% of graduates report that they're employed or enrolled in education at their three-month check-ins, and 80% report that they're stably housed. The partnership with RS Eden will be something that helps the greater community, lowering the barrier to mental health services, substance use treatment, and more.
"I think it's a really cool thing for two nonprofits to partner together in this way," she says. "The work that we can do together is so much more than the work we can do alone."