Hats Off Coffee, Long Prairie

A coffee shop with a little extra flavor

Hats are everyday wear for Daiv Freeman and Rosalie Talley at Hats Off Coffee in Long Prairie.  Photo by Nancy Leasman

Hats are everyday wear for Daiv Freeman and Rosalie Talley at Hats Off Coffee in Long Prairie. Photo by Nancy Leasman

Owning a coffee shop that has become the hub of the community, as well as a meeting spot for those up and down Highway 71,wasn’t part of Daiv Freeman’s business plan. At least not when he first looked at the former Mid-Central Federal Savings Bank building across from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Long Prairie. But the more he thought about it, and realized the drive-up banking window could work equally well for drive-up coffee, the better he thought the idea was.

“I had been working out of my home, selling horticulture and botany books by mail order.” His next sentence may have a certain Bartholomew Cubbins ring of destiny to it. “I was looking for a hat.”

Yes, Daiv was looking for a particular kind of hat, and he had a hard time finding what he wanted in stores or online. He finally resorted to contacting the manufacturer of the hat he wanted. That led to setting up a wholesale account using his book business. But even then he couldn’t buy just one hat. He was required to buy in quantity. But could he sell them through his online book business? Not likely. So, he set up another website; this one selling hats.

Wide selection of hats, backpacks and books. Photo by Nancy Leasman

Wide selection of hats, backpacks and books. Photo by Nancy Leasman

It was the summer of 2010, and he got distracted by other projects. He forgot to check back on his hat website until he got an email from a guy in England. The guy wanted to know how to make a payment, since Daiv had not yet set up the payment part of the website. “I hadn’t thought anyone had found the site. So, I checked and found that I had a couple dozen orders for hats.”

You might be wondering what hats have to do with a coffee shop. Well, Daiv was working out of his home, and when he ordered an inventory of hats to fill those orders, he realized that hats take up a lot more space than books. He needed more room, and unlike the specialized books, there was a local interest in the hat,s so he started to consider having a retail space. That’s when he looked at that building downtown and considered opening a coffee shop that sold hats and books. With his uncle who had a coffee roasting business in Rochester acting as a consultant, Daiv planned the business in his head, talked with the realtor about renting the building and “went for it.”

Daiv was the sole proprietor and lone barista for the first two years. After the first year of the business running just as he had envisioned it, Daiv bought the building. The next year he remodeled by bumping out the front wall to make more room for tables and changed the entrance to allow for some display space as well as creating a spot that would eventually house a coffee roaster. He also got rid of the old bank carpeting and installed ceramic tile.

Hats Off Coffee is a unique coffee shop in Long Prairie.  Photo by Nancy Leasman

Hats Off Coffee is a unique coffee shop in Long Prairie. Photo by Nancy Leasman

Now in his third year of running Hats Off Coffee, the hat shop that sells coffee or the coffee shop that sells hats, Daiv has added two employees: his daughter, Samantha, and full- time coffee enthusiast Rosalie Talley. Whether they’re roasting beans from various countries of the world, brewing specialty coffee drinks, or selling the growing line of merchandise, “The three of us have a lot of fun and enjoy serving our great regular customers and meeting new ones!” said Daiv. Backpacks and bags, local products like sunflower oil, maple syrup, honey, vinegar, wild rice and chocolate have all joined the hats and coffee. Daiv also sells fresh roasted coffee at $11.95 per pound. “That’s an incredible value for fresh coffee,” Daiv says.

The biggest unexpected surprise of the whole venture is Daiv’s relationship with the customers. “It’s become a meeting grounds. I’m glad I’m not on Highway 71. It’s nice to be away from the heavy traffic.” Whether hosting meetings, “teas” or music events, Daiv is enjoying the connection with the community.

Enjoy the free Wifi. Photo by Nancy Leasman

Enjoy the free Wifi. Photo by Nancy Leasman

Daiv doesn’t want Hats Off to be a static store. He thinks change is a positive thing and that it’s good to keep adding to and changing the menu. Getting the coffee roaster was a big deal he said. He’d love to add a greenhouse to the front of the store to bring his cacti collection (see June 2015 Senior Perspective “A Prickly Hobby”) to town so he can give it the attention it needs. The boulevard gardens are eye catching as is the fish and lily pond just outside the main seating area. The blooms change with the seasons. If you look closely, you might see a blooming cactus, or catch the blue lily reflecting in the pond.

Visit www.hatsoffcoffee.com to learn more about Daiv’s coffee shop or better yet, stop in Monday through Friday between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 7:00-1:00. If you buy a hat you’ll get a free coffee drink. You might also get your picture taken and become one of the proud hat wearers in the countertop slide show. Hats Off is closed on Sundays.

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