Anoka coffee shop anchors river town’s west end

Deeply rooted in the soil of the town where two rivers meet, Anoka Coffee Shop anchors Anoka’s west end at 530 West Main Street. Planted there nearly a half-century ago, the cute little café is a neighborhood favorite.

Regulars show up every morning at 5 a.m. sharp, and sure enough, the coffee’s hot, the griddle’s going and the cinnamon rolls are fresh out of the oven.

Bill Brown, a 5 a.m. regular at Anoka Coffee Shop smiles for the camera as Emily Korynta fills coffee cups for ladies gathered around a table behind him. Photo by Sue Austreng
Bill Brown, a 5 a.m. regular at Anoka Coffee Shop smiles for the camera as Emily Korynta fills coffee cups for ladies gathered around a table behind him. Photo by Sue Austreng

Owner Jake Drury and his fiancé Emily Korynta greet visitors by name, because after all, these people are like family. In fact, customers’ birthdays are noted on a wipe board near the cookie jars and updated every week.

Sixth generation 

Jake said he and Emily became sixth-generation coffee shop owners when he made the purchase last year.

“We’re not six generations of the same family, but we’re like family. Everyone knows each other, knows the stories, knows what they like and how they like it. We’re family,” Jake said, scrambling up some eggs and glancing past the counter at folks enjoying breakfast on a busy Wednesday morning.

Having just stocked fresh-baked cookies in the cookie jars lined up along the shelf, Emily chats with the ladies stopping by after morning mass, fills their coffee cups and takes orders for their favorites.

“We come here most mornings after mass (at St. Stephen’s),” said Nettie Pastoors, her tablemate Jeanne Brule noting, “We started coming when Ken (Roush) had the place because we like Ken and we’ve always liked Jake – he worked here as a waiter for Ken and now he’s the new owner. They’re good kids,” Jeanne said, smiling her approval at Jake and Emily.

While Jake does the cooking and Emily waits tables, makes homemade jam and bakes cookies and cinnamon rolls, Meri Stewart is sort of a “Jane of all trades,” Jake said.

The third member of the coffee shop crew, Meri clears tables, sets tables, washes dishes, straightens up the countertop, fills coffee cups – whatever is needed, she can get it done, Jake said.

Stop by for some face time

Anoka Coffee Shop is a throwback to the small town diner with home-cooked food and home-baked treats, comfort foods and generous portions.

And you won’t find Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, either.

“We encourage conversation. We don’t keep up with a lot of the trends, and that’s on purpose,” Jake said. “You don’t get the diner when everyone’s looking at their iPhone or tablet or laptop.”

And the prices match that old hometown feel, too. You can’t get a $5 latté at the Anoka Coffee Shop, but for just 50 cents you can get a fresh cup of hot coffee.

Celebrating Anoka

Special features found on the menu at the coffee shop include the Anoka Burger, a “scary-tasty” groundbeef burger with two pieces of spicy ghost pepper cheese melted on top. That burger was created to commemorate Anoka’s self-proclaimed title, “Halloween Capital of the World.”

Determined to celebrate that iconic holiday – but forced to close in order to accommodate traffic for Anoka Halloween’s Grand Day Parade –  the Anoka Coffee Shop celebrates “Halfoween” on April 30.

Coffee shop lineage

Jake and Emily are the latest link in the long line of Anoka Coffee Shop owners

But although its history is rich and its tales pass through the generations, an officially recorded history of the coffee shop is hard to find.

The earliest record of Anoka Coffee Shop in the Anoka County Historical Society’s business directory doesn’t show up until 1970, but Jake is sure the shop was there long before that.

“This place has been here forever,” said the 26-year old, who remembers making regular trips to the coffee shop with his grandpa, Chuck Drury, a regular for decades before that.

And then, of course, Jake was waiter and cook before he bought the shop from Ken, who got the shop from Mary who got it from Joseph or Linda who got it from Barbara … or something like that. The thread of ownership, like family stories shared through the generations, sometimes gets a little fuzzy.

Honoring Anoka’s history

Eager to celebrate and share the rich and storied history of his hometown, Jake said he plans to add some symbolic accents to the interior of the Anoka Coffee Shop. He wants to hang vintage photos of the city on the café walls and devote each dining room table to a significant event in Anoka’s history.

Not only that, he plans to create a Wall of Fame where he will hang portraits of famous Anokans like 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson, “Prairie Home Companion” radio personality and author Garrison Keillor, 1996  Olympic silver-medalist wrestler Brandon Paulson, and more.

Of course, the coffee shop’s own celebrities can also claim a spot on the Wall of Fame. Folks like Bill Brown, who may be the most regular of the early morning regulars, always up at the crack of dawn and ready for that first hot cup o’ joe when doors open.

And then there’s Dave Jurek, the owner of Anoka Meat & Sausage where Jake makes daily trips to get a fresh supply of meat for sandwiches, soups and sides.

And, of course, there’s the morning mass ladies, the “lunch table” (a group of local mechanics who have lunch there everyday), and the Tornadoes from the ‘50s and ‘60s (old classmates who gather each Wednesday morning for some breakfast and a bit of catch up from those days so long ago).

“We’ve got all kinds of (regulars) and we love every one of them,” Jake said.

The shop is open 5 a.m. to 1:50 p.m., 362 days of the year; closed Memorial Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]