Jun 23, 2016 04:50PM
By Jared Kennedy
Nonconformity is at home at Kellogg Place. The bustling, brick, glass-fronted space at 24th and Harney streets hosts three separate business operations that buck the status quo.
Muglife Coffee Roastery, Greenstreet Cycles, and Wag pet shop came together out of the separate proprietors’ yearning to satisfy passions for niche markets that were previously underdeveloped across Omaha.
Ben Swan initially had the idea to start the bike and brew consortium. When Swan started Green street six years ago, he noticed Omaha was not friendly to cycling, walking, and other pedestrianism. Even with the clear need for someone to start a cycling movement in Omaha, he says people called him crazy for trying to open a shop downtown, yet he persisted.
“To me, cycling is one form of pedestrian-friendly, sustainable transportation,” Swan says. “It’s about making people want to live in a sustainable area where they can live their life without being dependent on a car. It’s about making Omaha better.”
All three companies predate their current residence at Kellogg Place. Muglife and Greenstreet share a space, while Wag is next door. MugLife is owned by Brenna and Matt McCrary, Ben Swan runs Greenstreet, and Wag is owned by Eryn Swan.
While the McCrarys have different reasons for loving coffee, they are both in it for the human experience.
Matt initially went to college as a music major, but he eventually felt more compelled to study fields like humanities and socioeconomics. His alternating college majors were indicative of his wide range of interests, and it was an introductory experience to specialty coffee that really sparked his enthusiasm as something tying all of those interests together.
“I had been frustrated with my cubicle jobs. I visited some friends in Portland and Seattle, and they took me to coffee shops that were managing relationships with [coffee bean] farmers, only roasting coffee that was in season, and only purchasing directly from farmers,” Matt says.
He was inspired. Matt quit his job, started studying graphic design, and on the side he learned all he could about coffee. The latter soon took over.
Brenna’s passion for coffee is centered on her love for making connections. Through coffee, she gets to see people make new friends, talk about beautiful things, and actually be real with one another.
“For me it was really inspiring to recognize that people who would otherwise never get the opportunity to connect…tend to be more open, vulnerable, and inspired by one another when coffee is involved,” she says. “The experience of it all was really romantic to me.”
Spending time at Muglife/Greenstreet, it can sometimes be hard to tell which business people are there to patronize. Some come in for coffee then peruse the bikes, others come in to have their bike serviced—grabbing coffee while they wait. Between the aromas in the air, the clicks of bicycle gears, and the quiet rumble of conversation, it’s a comfortable and stimulating atmosphere. For those into coffee, it’s the place to be. For cyclists, it’s a one-stop-shop, and for the folks interested in both—it’s something out of a dream.
Brenna and Matt can be heard chatting with customers, engaging them in conversation, or vice versa, as coffee or tea is prepared. Neither misses an opportunity to educate a patron about the beverage they have chosen. Each gives detailed descriptions about the subtleties and flavors the drink contains. It’s like poetry—the way they pull such powerful words out of each cup.
Watching Ben Swan work has a similar allure. Charming, encouraging, and informative, he gives each customer his undivided attention. He seems to share each customer’s childlike excitement for some of the more specialty bikes. Watching him work, it’s clear there’s nothing he would rather be doing.
The passion the owners have for what they do seems to have a trickle down effect on the whole space. Loyal customers flock to the popular destination, and employees speak highly about the impact this place has.
“I think it is really helpful to people who come to get bikes if they aren’t really into specialty coffee, we can open their eyes to it,” says Teresa Coulter, a barista at Muglife. “A lot of our customers get to come in and drink coffee, and if they want to look at bikes they can. They can build relationships with both sides of the business, and then feel like they are at home when they come here.
Seth Erickson is a bike mechanic for Greenstreet. When he first came to Greenstreet as a bike apprentice, he didn’t know anything about bikes. In the beginning of his time there he didn’t even own a bike. Now it’s his passion.
“I just kind of fell in love with it. I really like the shop, and I am definitely pretty invested in it,” Erickson says. “My goal is to work in the bike industry now, and the shop has kind of fueled my career goal.”
Four people, and the deep love for their respective vocations, changed the face of the Kellogg Place neighborhood. They took a dilapidated building, a place boarded up and not used for more than 20 years, and made it an essential spot for good hangs, and a crossroads for life in Omaha. Encounter
Visit greenstreetcycles.com or muglifecoffee.com to learn more.