Change brewing for business partners
Business partners and friends Vicki Altena and Manda Steensma have poured their hearts into WildFlowers Coffee Boutique in downtown Luverne.
“Between remodeling the building, working as baristas and managing part-time employees, it has been a joyful adventure,” Altena said.
They announced last week that they’re selling the business, but will remain open as usual until the right buyer is found.
Steensma said their decision was driven entirely by outside factors.
“It’s not financial, because WildFlowers is doing well,” Steensma said. “We started this business together, and we will sell it together.”
They said WildFlowers is on the verge of growth, but personal commitments are limiting the time they’re able to invest in the coffee boutique’s opportunities for expansion.
“There is so much more potential here. We have people asking about us staying open later or serving wine or offering more food on weekends,” Steensma said.
“We would love to see a book club and regular Bible studies meet here, or to do more catering. There just hasn’t been the time for marketing or putting in the extra hours. I’m excited all over again just thinking of where someone can take it from here.”
Steensma, who has a young daughter at home and another in college, is also the office manager at Minnesota Special Liquids, the Steensma family business that she and her husband, Mark, are part of.
Altena said her lupus, an autoimmune disorder, recently became active after years in remission, and she needs to protect her health.
“I’ve tried to push through because I love the work and I’m a hard worker,” she said. “But this business simply requires more hands-on work from an owner than I can give.”
She added that she’s grateful for quality employees who fill in when she needs to rest.
Altena is married to American Reformed Church Pastor Mike Altena and has two sons and four granddaughters.
“We left two good jobs to do this, because we wanted to be a blessing to the community,” Altena said.
“We saw a need for a gathering place. We have our wonderful regulars who meet here. I’ve seen people pray together and I’ve witnessed people crying as they have a conversation.”
Both Steensma and Altena said they’re optimistic about the future of the WildFlowers Coffee Boutique, which customers say fills an important need in the community.
“Knowing there is a faith-based atmosphere makes it a wonderful place to meet friends and family and enjoy the great food and drink choices with servers and preparers who actually become friends, too,” said customer Barb Olson of Magnolia.
“Thank you, Manda and Vicki, for providing this blessing to the community, I wish you both well.”
Dale and Patti Nelson of Luverne said they enjoy the atmosphere and the fact that metro quality establishment is in Luverne.
“We have traveled within the state and other states, and the quality of food and coffee does not compare to WildFlowers,” Patti said.
“When we have out-of-town friends visiting we bring them there and it’s a highlight of their visit.”
The historic brick building at the corner of Main Street and Cedar Avenue once served as the Rock County Bank and Mort Skewes’ law office.
It was remodeled over the course of six months into a “cozy and rustically designed space with modern elements,” with tin ceiling tile, exposed brick walls and a kitchen inside the former bank vault.
“The goal was for it to feel calm and welcoming with small-town service, yet look as if it could fit in any larger city’s downtown,” Steensma said.
In addition to gourmet coffee, WildFlowers serves salads, sandwiches, soups, pie, cookies and bars, ice cream, tea and smoothies.
It has free Wi-Fi and retail space for cards, gifts and locally created art.
Steensma said she and her husband, Mark, would likely retain ownership of the building after the coffee boutique is purchased, and Altena said she’d consider returning as a part-time employee.
“It’s a turnkey operation for someone and they don’t necessarily have to invest in the whole building,” Steensma said. “We’ll be around to help in any transition.”
They can be reached at wildFlowerscoffee@gmail.com and information is posted online at wildFlowers.com.