Nov 9, 2023 - News

Rick's Coffee Bar fuels services for Twin Cities veterans

Illustration of coffee cup with American flag.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Rick's Coffee Bar, a South Minneapolis café created by and for veterans, has joined the wave of Twin Cities coffee shops with a cause.

  • Rick's provides employment, community, and support for veterans while raising awareness of the struggles they face.

Why it matters: Safety nets and support systems available for veterans after their service can be limited.

Reality check: Since 9/11, four times as many U.S. service members have died by suicide as have died in combat.

Context: Rick's began in 2017 as a donation-based coffee shop that served as a gathering space for veterans and their families. The current full-service café opened in 2022 a few blocks from the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

  • Co-owner and veteran Tom McKenna named the shop after his friend Rick Gustafson, an Air Force Master Sergeant who served nine deployments in the Middle East. Gustafson died by suicide in 2015 while suffering from severe PTSD.
  • McKenna aims to celebrate Gustafson's service while sharing with the general public the struggles veterans endure, he told Axios.

How it works: The shop operates an internship program that employs vets as baristas while also pairing them with other support systems, like career coaches.

  • At around 20 hours a week, the job serves as a soft entrance back into the workforce, McKenna said, providing a structured environment that's also supportive.
  • All profits go to Every Third Saturday, the nonprofit organization that operates Rick's and other support networks for veterans and their families.

What they're saying: "There's always been a connection between veterans and coffee, going back to World War II — we're working odd shifts in the service, or out late at night in the field, so there's a lot of coffee involved," McKenna told Axios.

Details: Rick's Coffee Bar is open Monday-Saturday from 6am to 2pm and serves specialty coffee and food from Nordic Waffles and St. Paul bakery La Boulangerie Marguerite.

  • Visit at 5402 43rd Ave S, Minneapolis.

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