116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Katy Herbold had been in her fair share of coffee shops with her three sons and the noise that goes with that, and felt a bit out of place, or that they perhaps were disrupting the atmosphere.
So when she decided to open her own coffee shop a few years ago, she knew she wanted to ensure everyone felt OK walking through the door.
“I just wanted to make a place where everybody felt welcome, no matter the screaming or the crying or the laughing or the happiness,” she said.
“Your whole family can come in and sit in one spot, and that’s my favorite feature about the store, is that we really strive to make the atmosphere friendly for all.”
Visitors to Sidekick Coffee and Books not only will find traditional tables and chairs, but also comfy couches and hexagon cubbies where you can curl up, enjoy a beverage and also read a book.
As a book lover, Herbold said she couldn’t not include a bookstore as part of her coffee shop when she decided to open one.
“I feel like I am always trying to find another spot to put in more bookshelves, too,” she joked.
Sidekick offers books in the collection from baby through adult.
“While I do focus on children's literature, my adult section ended up growing during COVID-19 and we are keeping it that way.”
She said it is her goal to stay in tune with her customer base and what they are looking for.
“I'm always trying to make my collection better,” she said. “My overall goal is that I really want customers to be able to walk in here and see a book that they have an interest in or characters on the cover that looks like them.”
Sidekick offers a full coffee bar with an assortment of coffee drinks using Intelligentsia Coffee, which is roasted in Chicago and is direct trade, which was important to Herbold.
“The quality of the product is what makes people come back, and we have a lot of lot of regular customers that recognize what we serve, and they come there for that reason.”
The shop uses Kalona Creamery products, serve Heyn’s ice cream and have an assortment of pastries daily made locally by Tip Top Cakes. It also recently received a liquor license and is developing some alcoholic drinks to offer, such as the Tailgator, a flight of coffee-liquor drinks.
“We aren’t your usual football spot, but we can definitely get you going for your day, even if it’s off to cheer at a football game since it’s just down the street,” she said, referring to the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium.
Before opening Sidekick, Herbold worked many “odd jobs,” she recalled.
“But mainly I worked in the event planning industry at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and I was also an elementary school teacher. So this is a conglomeration of those two worlds,” she said.
“I loved to teach reading, it was my absolute favorite thing I did as a teacher and then it combines with my event-planning experience.”
Owner: Katy Herbold
Address: 1310 1/2 Melrose Ave., Iowa City
Phone: (319) 569-1010
One of Herbold’s favorite events it the upcoming KidLit Festival on Nov. 6, when local children’s book authors will be on site to read to and speak with customers.
“We will have about 15 authors and illustrators here and it’s a great way to kick off the holiday shopping season.”
And while Herbold wears many hats as business owner, her favorite often finds her sitting on the floor with the youngest of customers.
“My absolute favorite thing to do is story time,” she said, noting the shop hosts it weekly.
“It's not a big event. Sometimes I'll have two kids come and then I get to sit on the floor with them and read picture books that I love.”
“I live very close to my shop, so I am over there, like six or seven days a week although I do try to give myself a break one day,” she said.
“... And it's a weird kind of thing to be a small business owner because it never really stops. You always have something in your brain. And there’s no way I could do it without breaks and without the great staff I have working for me.”
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