“New and improved” is a term that rarely proves to be more than a marketing gimmick.
But when applied to the new Sisters’ Sludge location in Minneapolis' Standish neighborhood, which will open next week, it’s spot on.
The coffeeshop, founded in 1997 by triplets Judy Morris-Meyer, Maggie Morris-Gronlund, and Katie Morris-Buch, left its longtime location on the corner of E. 46th Street and Bloomington Avenue S. back in June due to a lease dispute with the building’s new owner. Supporters of the sisters immediately bombarded them with suggestions for new digs, and every night at 8 p.m., the sisters jumped in a car and drove around to scope out potential venues.
As soon as they happened upon the 2,300-square-foot space on 38th Street and 23rd Avenue, they were smitten. The only problem? When the landlord showed up, he initially dismissed the sisters’ interest by referring them to his realtor.
After overhearing them mention wine and beer, he got the ball rolling himself.
“It was like a marriage made in heaven,” Morris-Meyer says during a preview of the space. She and her sisters are buzzing with energy in anticipation of the opening, chatting over one another excitedly as they discuss Sisters’ Sludge’s metamorphosis from tiny bohemian café to cozy-chic coffee shop and bar.
“Decorator, contractor extraordinaire” Brad Larson is responsible for much of the design in the bright, airy space. The renovations were funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year that raised over $10,000, and tiles bearing the names of $100-and-up supporters greet customers at the entrance. Flat-screen fireplaces add ambiance to each of the two rooms -- one for coffee, the other for alcohol. Larson built the coffee bar with bamboo flooring and laid ceiling-high white tiles behind the bar. A massive geometric chandelier hangs near a plush black couch.
A special section called “Dick’s Corner” is named after the sisters’ most loyal customer, Dick Voss, who died of brain cancer last December. As someone who often complained of the low light at the old location (and even went so far as to bring his own lamp), Voss likely would’ve appreciated the large windows, cushy black chairs, and kaleidoscopic Michael Kronenberg mural that occupy his memorial corner.
The bar area is date-night sophisticated, with an original tin ceiling, tall bar, black tables, and chairs alternately cushioned in black and a beige-white zebra-like pattern. Barnwood frames a painted chalkboard by the bar. Steampunk-style light bulb fixtures cast a warm yellow glow in the room. The sign from the old building adorns one wall; another, bigger wall is empty now but will soon be filled with artwork.
“I wanted a nice wine bar, but I didn’t want a wine bar where you feel like you had to walk in dressed up to the hilt,” Morris-Buch says. “We wanted it to be kind of casual. Good wine, simple appetizers. You can come in your jeans.”
The coffee menu caffeine addicts relied on for decades remains unchanged, save for the addition of nitro cold press. The sisters’ signature espresso shots -- often named after nearby businesses, events, or fundraisers -- will return. The latest Sisters’ Sludge mugs, a cult collectible item, are black ceramic handmade by Renee Tobin.
The bar menu will feature craft brews from the likes of Fulton, Bent Paddle Brewing, and Left Hand Brewing. Wines will be sourced from small, family-owned wineries.
“I personally think the bar is going to be very easy,” Morris-Meyer says. “It’s the kitchen that we’re kind of freaking out about.” In addition to the tried-and-true bakery items, the expanded menu will include flatbread, small plates, and dessert items.
Half of Sisters’ Sludge’s 25-person staff are newbies, but several veteran employees who outgrew the old coffeeshop will return to work the bar. “It’s like having your kids come back,” Morris-Buch says.
While the initial reaction to moving out of their old space was devastation, all three sisters agreed it was for the best. “It pushed us to do something that we’ve been wanting to do,” Morris-Meyer says. Liquor had been on their wish list for a while.
There’s no ill will toward the former building’s new owner, Molly Miller, who plans to open a bakery, Sift Gluten-Free, in that space next month.
“She’s doing really nice stuff to the building,” Morris-Gronlund says. In fact, she peeks into the old space when she visits her husband at Nokomis Cycle.
“I hope she’s successful, because I would hate to see that corner die,” Morris-Meyer adds.
The triplets didn’t want to dwell too much on the past. They were downright hyper with anticipation of Sisters’ Sludge 2.0, and if the community support they’ve received in the past four months is any indication, the feeling is mutual.
In the same way people donated their time and talents to make the coffeeshop happen in 1997, generosity again reigned in the preparation of the new space. The sisters say they feel lucky to be able to continue the coffee shop’s legacy, even if it is in a different neighborhood.
“I would be so depressed if we weren’t going to see our customers anymore,” Morris-Meyer says.
“Sometimes the universe pushes you to grow, and I think it was time to grow,” Morris-Gronlund concluded. “We were kind of doing our 20 years with our eyes closed at that point. Now we’re wide awake again.”
3746 23rd Ave. S., Minneapolis