Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Blue Moon metamorphoses into Milkweed Cafe

Posted on 01 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Longtime staff take over beloved neighborhood coffee shop, renovate and open with new name

Owner Brenda Ingersoll prepares a cold press in the recently reopened coffee shop at 3822 Lake St. As she has celiac disease, Ingersoll makes sure to have gluten-free options available for customers. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Blue Moon Coffee Cafe (3822 E. Lake St.) has been transformed into Milkweed by longtime staffers Brenda Ingersoll and Alex Needham.
The new shop opened on May 22, 2019.
After shutting the doors on the neighborhood’s beloved coffee house for the last time on Dec. 31, 2018, the new owners began an extensive renovation project. Throughout the changes, they’ve sought to maintain what the neighborhood – and they – loved best about the local coffee house.
The couple drew upon their own experience working at the Blue Moon under owner Lisa Berg, who operated the cafe for 24 years before closing due to health issues. They’ve also factored in comments they heard from residents during the transition. During the renovation, passersby regularly peeked in the windows and stepped through the door to check on the progress.
Ingersoll managed at Blue Moon from 2014-2016 and Needham worked there from 2013 to 2016. When their son, Bruce, now four, was born, they worked back-to-back shifts, and handed the baby off at the cafe.
“We really fell in love with the space,” recalled Needham.
“It has been my favorite job,” said Ingersoll.
With their past experience, running the coffee shop won’t be new for them. But they also recognized that Blue Moon won’t be the same without Lisa, and so they’re starting fresh with a new identity: Milkweed.
They plan to make their own nut milks, and offer tea blends from Sacred Blossom and other Fair Trade organic companies. They’re sourcing supplies from local vendors as much as possible.
As Ingersoll has been recently diagnosed with celiac disease, the cafe offers gluten-free options and its own facility is entirely gluten-free. Those who aren’t gluten-free can select from the pre-packaged sandwich they offer, along with grab-and-go options from Seward Co-op and deli. Gluten-free options from Sift Bakery are available. Also on the menu are paninis, quiche, salads and more.
Coffee comes from Tiny Footprint Coffee in Brooklyn Park, a company that combines small-batch artisan coffee with reforestation efforts in Ecuador, making it the world’s first carbon negative coffee. To-go cups are compostable.
“For a place that does grab and go things, we’re trying to make as small an impact as possible,” observed Ingersoll.
A former stewardess, Ingersoll says that running a coffee shop is essentially like running an airplane. “You’ve got to build relationships,” she said.

Alex Needham (left), son Bruce, and Brenda Ingersoll during the renovation. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

She’s excited to be her own boss and to apply her design sensibilities to an entire space. A floral designer, Ingersoll also runs a floral business out of her house. She plans to sell tropicals and other plants at Milkweed — where they’ll also function as decor. “I love plants so I’ll fill the space with them,” she stated.

Coffee shop evolution
During the renovation work, the only coffee in this long-time coffee house was from a Mr. Coffee drip machine as the espresso machines sat unplugged. Much of the renovation work was done by Needham, who works for a construction firm around his job in the film industry.
With the help of volunteers and professionals, they replaced and squared off the old bar, added nine seats, and reconfigured the space for new uses. In all, they’ve put in six sinks and three floor drains in the building that was constructed a century ago and is owned by blues musician John Kolstad. Wood planks from one area were reused as flooring elsewhere.
When Blue Moon originally opened in the 1990s, there wasn’t as much laptop use as there is today, explained Ingersoll. Recognizing how coffee shops have evolved, they replaced benches and table tops with a bar along one wall for single users repurposed from a bench that used to sit alongside the back wall. Another bench near the children’s area by the back door is still being used.
The back nook has been reimagined with a caterpillar and butterfly theme for kids. Along with toys, there will be ready-to-go art projects. “Parents can work and watch their kids,” observed Ingersoll, a busy mom herself.
The nook size is a bit different, as the bathroom door has moved and a prep space carved out of the old supply closet.
The new main bar was milled from a Silver Maple tree that fell in Seward.
Long-time customers asked if the new owners were going to keep the lounge, and the answer is yes. The location of the comfy chairs has shifted a bit, but they’re still there.
They can accommodate in-house musical shows, and have a beer and wine license. Local art hangs on the walls in three-month stints, with Jim Blaha, a former Blue Moon barista, up first.
“It’s simple and small, but cozy,” stated Ingersoll. “I think the neighborhood will appreciate a little bit of music in the neighborhood occasionally.”
Milkweed continues to share a door with Hymie’s Vintage Records, which is undergoing its own transformation and is for sale. “Record hunters enjoy drinking coffee and vice versa,” observed Ingersoll.
As many of the former staff as wanted have stayed on at the neighborhood coffee house.
“I remember when this floor was shiny,” observed neighborhood resident Nikki Baker one Sunday in January when she dropped by with Hamuman Carlson to check on the renovation progress. She recalled bringing her daughter to the cafe when she was four, and dropping in a couple times a week. “It’s definitely a community place which is what people need.”
“It’s such an important part of the neighborhood,” added Carlson. “It’s going to be new, but it is going to be the new same.”
Hours right now are Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.