Stone Bru co-owner Brad Lepper knew that business was percolating at a fast pace at the coffee shop’s 4243 Gordon Drive location.
That’s why he jumped at the opportunity to expand to a second location at 400 Gold Circle Drive in Dakota Dunes.
“When (co-owner Robby Jennings) and I opened Stone Bru in Morningside, we were convinced it was the perfect location for an organic coffee shop,” Lepper said. “And it has a very devoted following.”
However, the 600-square-foot coffee spot was limited in space and shared a building with a laundromat.
On the other hand, the Dakota Dunes Stone Bru occupies 1,500-square-feet on the ground floor of the three-story, 35,000-square-foot Gold Circle Centre, a state-of-the-art office building in which Central Band and NAI United are major tenants.
“This is a space where we can expand and grow if need be,” Lepper explained. “We can seat 40 people indoors and seat another 24 people in our outdoor patio.”
One thing the new Stone Bru doesn’t have is a drive-thru window.
“Our original store has a drive-thru window that is always busy,” Lepper allowed. “I don’t think that will be an issue here.”
Indeed, he has taken considerable effort to change the new Stone Bru from a place to dash in for a latte to a place that is inviting enough to stay for a while.
“I remembered ( Starbucks Coffee founder) Howard Schultz introduced the concept of the ‘third space’ — a place where people would feel comfortable while interacting with one another,” Lepper said. “A person’s home would be the first space and an office setting would be a second space.
“A coffee house in a beautiful setting be a third space. This is a place where you can do some work, meet up with friends and, also, get some expertly brewed coffee.”
Lepper said he doesn’t want Stone Bru to become the next Starbucks.
“We’ll never have a huge menu of items,” he said. “I’d prefer to concentrate on fewer things and do them exceptionally well.”
In order to brew a quality cup of joe, you’ve got to know the proper equipment.
Lepper is quick to point out the pour-over machine that has been shipped from Ireland plus a state-of-the-art espresso machine from La Marzocco USA of Seattle, which is the first of its kind installed in America.
“You won’t see this level of equipment in Omaha or Des Moines,” he said. “You’d have to go to Denver to see anything that comes close to this.”
But if you think Stone Bru’s selection of coffees, frappes, teas and organic smoothies is impressive, check out the new food menu.
“That was the one thing (the Stone Avenue) Stone Bru lacked,” Lepper admitted. “We don’t have enough kitchen space.”
To set the Dakota Dunes operation apart, Lepper enlisted the help of Kirk Phillips, the chef at Vermillion, South Dakota’s acclaimed RED Steakhouse, to co-curate an all-natural or organic menu for Stone Bru.
“Our new food items are far from your typical coffee shop fare,” he said.
Early risers can order egg and avocado toast (a sous vide egg, sea salt and fork-smashed avocado on sourdough toast) while a curried apricot chicken salad croissant makes for a surprisingly hearty lunch.
Yet Lepper is also looking beyond the breakfast and lunch customer base.
“When the bank’s closed at night or on the weekends, I’d like to start doing events like live musical performances in our lobby,” he said. “I’d also like to offer a few selections of wine and introduce some dinnertime food options.”
Which all goes back to Lepper’s philosophy of focusing on a few things and doing them well.
“Stone Bru will never be the biggest,” he said. “I just want us to be the best.”
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