Lake Elmo Coffee returns

Lake Elmo Coffee on Lake Elmo Avenue was shuttered by its previous owners in March, then purchased by new owners Joan and Shane Manzara and reopened in April. (Solomon Gustavo/Review)

Lake Elmo’s small town mainstreet charm lies on a sliver of Lake Elmo Avenue. 

The rural downtown is home to a post office, fire station and library. Then, in November 2017, Lake Elmo Coffee opened. 

It quickly became a resident favorite before meeting a quick demise. In March, just over a year into its introduction to the Lake Elmo community, the owners ran out of resources to keep the shop going.

The closing announcement was made on Facebook, where Lake Elmo users decried the loss of their coffee shop, a mainstreet spot.

The cozy, high-ceilinged space was warm and welcoming, conveniently offering local coffee and pastries right downtown.

Joan and Shane Manzara live in Lake Elmo. 

“I prefer to live in space,” said Joan. “And you know the people around ya,” added Shane. 

The couple also liked the coffee shop and, like their neighbors, were sad to see it go. So they bought the joint. 

“It was just natural,” said Joan. 

Lake Elmo Coffee closed March 5, was sold March 15 and reopened April 1. The Manzara’s decided to reopen the store right away to latch on to any still-existing goodwill. 

This required the new owners, who have never operated a coffee shop before, to “work the bugs out” on the fly, said Joan. 

Locals didn’t begrudge bearing with the new coffee shop owners. From the moment the doors were opened, said Joan, people were excited to have the coffee shop back. 

Shane said the transition was seamless, but there was still a learning curve.

For starters, neither knew how to operate an espresso machine, or knew the ins-and-outs of coffee quality. 

Shane served in the military as a boiler operator and has maintenance experience at a apartment complex and factories. “I know how to keep things going and running in top order,” he said. 

Joan was once a barista herself in her 20s, but that was before espresso machines were outfitted with computer boards. 

“1990 was a long time ago is all I can say,” she said with a laugh.

Staff from the previous regime, like the head barista, stayed on to help the transition. The barista, said the Manzaras, remembers regulars and their coffee orders. A passionate coffee bean vendor showed them how to test things like water and bean quality. 

In less than a month, the upstarts have gone from reviving the coffee shop while learning on the way, to spending their time sweating over the best possible cup of coffee. 

The shop currently serves coffee, pastries and sandwiches, with gluten-free options. 

Part of returning to the community, said Joan, has involved finding out what the community wants. She said they are always looking for customer feedback on what they like about the shop and what they want it to offer. 

The owners said their favorite part of owning the shop is the regulars and people who come in to get a nice start to their days, or to set up camp to relax or work. 

“I really like seeing people relaxing in front of the fireplace,” said Joan, who said she relishes seeing people settling in with fresh brewed coffee and a newspaper. 

Both said they thank everyone who has come in, who have been supportive and understanding of the new shop owners. 

“Gosh,” said Joan. “It’s been fun.”


–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at or 651-748-7815.

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