By opening Good Vibes Café in Solon, sisters Kari Haugse and Krystal Nielsen have given their hometown its only coffee shop.
“We want to own a part of what’s happening here in town,” Haugse said.
The second and third of five siblings, the sisters grew up in Solon and graduated from Solon High School. Two years ago, when Nielsen and her family moved back to the Johnson County community from Cedar Rapids, she found a bustling downtown with several restaurants and businesses drawing visitors from all over, but with one noticeable void.
“There was no coffee shop,” she said. “There used to be one, but it turns out it had been closed for years.”
Nielsen told her sister, who lives in nearby North Liberty, that they should open a coffee shop together, and Haugse readily agreed.
“It really was like that,” Haugse said. “My thought was if we don’t do it, someone else will. There was no coaxing needed.”
This past spring, the sisters purchased space in a new mixed use development on Main Street next door to Big Grove Brewery. They spent the summer transforming the “blank box” into a coffee bar, small kitchen and inviting spot for customers to relax.
They also attended trade shows and took classes on coffee-related topics to learn the ins and outs of the coffee shop business. At one trade show in Baltimore, they met a coffee roaster from Des Moines who became one of their suppliers and mentors.
They opened Good Vibes Café on October 15.
The shop offers coffee and espresso drinks, including a couple of custom drinks, and loose leaf teas. The food menu includes breakfast sandwiches, Belgium waffles, baked goods and soups and sandwiches for lunch.
With Nielsen’s prior experience working as a barista at an Amana coffee shop and Haugse’s past tenure as a baker at a local apple orchard, the sisters said the division of labor was almost automatic. Nielsen works up front at the coffee bar, while Haugse handles the work back in the kitchen.
“We’re both masters of our own space,” Haugse said. “But I try to be up front as much as possible because I like to see people when they come in.”
“It’s really fun being back in town,” Nielsen added.
Open for just over a month, the coffee shop has become a place for local residents to get breakfast and coffee for their commute to Cedar Rapids or Iowa City as well as a new favorite hangout spot for Solon students after school.
Even with a staff of 10 employees, including their younger sister, Haugse and Nielsen spend seven days a week at the shop.
“We talked about it from the get-go,” Nielsen said. “We’ll need to be here every day for a long time.
“But we have espresso, so it’s OK.”
If You Go
• What: Good Vibes Cafe
• Where: 121 E. Main St., Solon
• Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
• Details: (319) 624-8423, facebook.com/goodvibescoffeecafe