With Room Coffee looking for new home

Charles Crane/MDN Shyla Wettlaufer and Rebecca Alvarez are the owners of With Room Coffee and Plants. With Room was notified in July they had until Aug. 31 to vacate its current location and find a new one.

With Room Coffee and Plants has occupied a space in the Brick Building in downtown Minot for nearly four years, having recently celebrated its anniversary in early July. Partners Rebecca Alvarez and Shyla Wettlaufer set out to bring a West Coast vibe to the coffee scene in the Magic City, and after four years they say they felt very settled and a part of the community.

“The vision we had was to bring in a different kind of atmosphere. Where we started in the beginning in 2017, doing all of the pop-up events to where we are at now. We went from a table to a shop. I feel like we’re definitely in tune with Minot,” Alvarez said.

Their unique approach is evident in the seas of greenery in the decor, and the eclectic array of drinks and home baked treats on offer has created a following in the busy Minot coffee scene. In addition to its downtown location, With Room also operates a kiosk on Minot Air Force Base, itself stocked and supplied by their kitchen in the Brick Building.

With Room had initially signed a one-year lease with their original landlord, with the option to renew for 10 years. After the first year neither party pursued the 10-year option, settling into a month-to-month arrangement for nearly three years.

“When we first moved in, the rumor was that businesses in this building can’t make it very far, like only 6 to 8 months,” Alvarez said, “As the years had gone by, we just felt like we had a relationship. We’ve been month to month for a very long time, but it just never came up.”

Only days after With Room celebrated its anniversary, the owners were blindsided by a notice from their new landlords that their lease was not to be renewed, a new tenant had been found, and they needed to vacate by Aug. 31.

In a post accompanying a social media video breaking the news, With Room’s owners explained their circumstances, and that they would be doing everything possible to find a new location as soon as possible. While blindsided and saddened by the news themselves, Alvarez and Wettlaufer are pressing forward and embracing the journey, but are struggling with the day-to-day uncertainty caused by the rising prices of the real estate market and a timetable that puts most options out of reach.

A veteran of Starbucks, Alvarez managed locations in California before moving to Minot, but leapt at the chance to start her own thing in her new home.

“I started this by myself, I wouldn’t want to ever end it myself. We are trying to figure out if there is a solution,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez, Wettlaufer and their employees have been showing up every day, carrying on serving their customers and stocking the kiosk on the base while the owners spend what time that is available to them finding a landing place for their business.

Customers still stream in for their favorite brews and infusions, all passing along their sympathy and concern while asking if they’ve found a new place yet, a question they have been unable to answer themselves. Another question that has come up is exactly why With Room was not granted a new lease by the new owners, despite being an established business and tenant.

One possible answer could be found in who has purchased the Brick Building, the same ownership team behind home goods and gift shop The Foundry. The Foundry currently has a working relationship with Magic Bean Brewing Company who operate a full-service coffee shop at The Foundry’s current location.

A manager at The Foundry confirmed that the business would be moving into their new location in the Brick Building sometime in September, and that Magic Bean would follow at a later date. With Room’s new landlords have offered them a break on their final rent payment if they are able to vacate by Aug. 15, otherwise they will have to be out by the end of the month.

“It’s not the fact that another coffee shop is going in here. I come from a city where you have coffee shops everywhere. I congratulate them for buying this building, and I was actually looking forward to having a competitor here with us,” Alvarez said, “To be completely honest, 30 days isn’t enough time to find a turnkey operation, another 5-to-10-year commitment where we will carry these people that we are employing, including ourselves.”

With Room currently employs 12 people, some of whom have been working there since the beginning, who will be affected should the business fail to find a new location. Alvarez concedes any delay in reopening will leave their employees no choice but to pursue filing for unemployment or a new position elsewhere.

“If we find something in 6 to 8 months, then hopefully they’ve made it that far to still come back to us, but I can’t tell these kids, hey, can you not pay your rent? I have to pay them,” said Alvarez, “They’re going to have to find a new job. This sucks because it might be the end. But I never want to go that route, because I’m a problem solver.”

Though they have attempted to communicate with their prior and current landlords to negotiate for more time, their entreaties have not been answered. Alvarez and Wettlaufer remain on the hunt for a workable location with their looming deadline growing closer every day.

“We are a small, successful business that’s been operating for four and half years.” said Alvarez, “I just wish it had been communicated better. There is a respectful way of doing things. You can still respect another small business.”


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