There are many small touches throughout the two-story Rise Coffee, inspired by owner Jessie Mueller's love of Bohemian decor and crafted by local St. Louis designer Jenny B of Jipsi Boho. The thoughtful design of this space is driven by social inspiration as much as the community of a cup of coffee.
Beyond the numerous upcycling flourishes, such as a bike tire tied to the ceiling with rope, you’ll find more serious moments. A small wooden bar overlooking Manchester Avenue has a quote engraved into its corner. This quote is at the heart of Rise:
“The [shop] name came from a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that talks about letting go of some of your individuality and rising for the common good,” explains Jessie Mueller. “That's really the mission of [the shop].”
Rise Coffee pulled its first espresso in September 2013. Before there was a brew bar, or anything else, the Mueller had a lot of work to do: the former industrial plumbing supply space was condemned property. Mueller, a former language arts teacher and social worker, recalled not even being able to walk on the floor. She was drawn to the area when interning during her social work master's program.
“Honestly, I just fell in love with this neighborhood,” Mueller says. “I had just had a child nine months before and this place was like my freedom place. It's the place where I went when I just needed to be in the community and part of something bigger than myself.”
When the coffee shop idea began to take shape, Mueller flew out to Portland, Oregon and “rode a bike around for two weeks, soaked in coffee culture,” taking classes at the American Barista & Coffee School in between visits to Heart and Barista.
“I'm the nerd that went to the coffee classes,” Mueller says, “but it was really helpful for me, not having any coffee experience and wanting to open a community café.”
These days, the shop features St. Louis roasters Blueprint and Sump, alongside a rotating selection of beans from places like Kansas City, Missouri's Oddly Correct, Edwardsville, Illinois's Goshen Coffee and Topeka, Kansas' PT's.
“We really focus on community,” manager and barista Nick Endejan says. “[Jessie] is super involved and just like trying to raise up everything around us. It just makes sense for us to take our supplies from the people around us. A lot of people might not realize that St. Louis and the Midwest in general has really good coffee. It's good for both ends. We do ship from out of state sometimes, but for the most part most of our stuff comes from within Missouri or very close to it. We always get really good quality product.”
The shop utilizes two local producers for their food: Whisk Bakery for their pastry case and The Social Affair for more substantial offerings.
“We offer a really nice quiche, some white bean basil dip, chicken salad and a mac and cheese, Southern style,” Mueller says. “That's pretty cool for the kids.”
Speaking of kids, Rise makes room for the young ones. One of the main features of Rise's second floor is the kids’ area, which can be closed with a small gate for playtime. “We have a children's area upstairs which has been a huge part of our business,” Mueller says. “It's brought a lot of people into the community that never would have come here before, so that's been really neat.”
A recent addition to reinforce the shop's community ethos has been the pay-it-forward Coffee For The People program, a take on the Suspended Coffee idea similar to the version at Yanaka Coffee in Tokyo. Originally started to raise awareness about community issues, the board connects people of all interests and motivations by drawing on a coffee sleeve with a Sharpie.
“We have one person that's like ‘if you love cats, here's a free Sump pour-over,'” Mueller says. “Those fly right off.”
The shop's next plan is to roll out a big, teal-colored mobile coffee truck, the first of its kind in St. Louis. The idea started with manager Nick Endejan and his wife Sarah, who is also a barista at Rise Coffee. The truck is going to be an extension of the shop on wheels, and plans to roll out in October.
“We're going to pretty much stick to the values that Jessie and I have instilled into this place. It'll be a multi-roaster, we'll have pour-overs and pretty much everything you can get here you'll be able to get on the truck as well,” says Endejan.
Evan C. Jones is a Sprudge.com contributor based in St. Louis. Read more Evan C. Jones on Sprudge.