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Dunn Bros. franchise coming to downtown Hudson

The sounds of milk steaming and pitchers thumping countertops, along with the wafting smells of fresh-roasted coffee beans, will hit the corner of Second and Locust streets in coming weeks as a group of Hudson-based business partners look to expand their small-town food service empire into a downtown location.

The banner is already in place in the storefront window: Dunn Brothers Coffee, a franchise company of coffeehouses founded in St. Paul, will find a new home on Hudson’s main drag in March.

Business partners and Hudson High School graduates Chris (’83) and Libby Swanson (a River Falls High School graduate), his brother Rick (’77) and Kris Swanson and John (’76) and Kathe Nickleby, who already own a Dunn Brothers location near the St. Croix County Business Park and another one over the bridge in Stillwater, are opening the new coffee shop at 529 Second St., the former site of Freestyle Yogurt. The team also owns sub sandwich shop Erbert and Gerbert’s at 2521 Hanley Road.

“We have been looking for something in downtown Hudson for a long time,” John Nickleby said in an interview with the Star-Observer. “This is the right opportunity, right location. We’ve looked at different places and this came up -- it was a prime spot -- and we had to act quickly because other people wanted it too.

“Our thought is we’re going to get customers we don’t normally get, especially in the morning rushes, because people aren’t driving (to Hanley Road) heading to work (in the Twin Cities). With the downtown tourism, the businesses, The Phipps Center, the restaurants, we think it’s great,” Nickleby said.

Business partners since 2007 when they opened the Dunn Brothers on Hanley Road, the Swansons and Nicklebys expanded with the purchase of next-door Erbert and Gerbert’s in 2010 and the Stillwater Market Drive coffee shop location in February 2012.

Downtown coffee is sparse, Nickleby points out. Urban Olive & Vine has tea and coffee but, with its 8 a.m. weekday opening time and specialized menu, aims for a different clientele; Bert’s Coffee will be the main competitor.

“The difference is we have a bakery and we have breakfast sandwiches…That’s the difference between us and the other ones. The others are specialty places. And we have a roaster. We will be roasting our beans,” he added.

Dunn Brothers was founded in St. Paul in 1987 and now has its corporate offices in Minneapolis. The company (self-described as “The Official Home of Taste”) says it operates nearly 85 locations in nine different states with a “strong brand and a unique business model.”

With a menu that includes coffee from around the world, espresso-based lattes and cappuccinos, loose leaf teas, blended and iced drinks -- and the specialty “Nirvana” -- the co-owner says the Dunn Brothers label has a lot to offer.

It’s important, Nickleby believes, for a group of locals -- like the trio of men who played on Hudson High School’s golf team -- to focus on economic development in their hometown. With the new store comes the pride and practical knowledge to navigate a community like Hudson, where “’local’ is important,” he said.

And it creates jobs.

Seven people have been interviewed for barista positions -- the people in charge of taking orders, pouring coffee, mixing lattes and baking sandwiches -- and Nickleby said expects more to come. Training will be led by existing staff at the other locations who might spare some of their time to teach others a new trade or new skills, or introduce them to the Dunn Brothers way of life.

Interested applicants can apply online at DunnBrothers.com/jobs and search “Hudson.”

The store will look slightly different from the yogurt shop of yore. Higher-ups at Dunn Brothers scouted the location and gave some tips about layout, which will give customers room to line up, sit down and enjoy anything from a cup of coffee to specialized espresso and blended drinks.

Asked why customers should choose his preference with Dunn Brothers over, say, Caribou or Starbucks, Nickleby pointed to the company’s emphasis on micro-roasting: “The coffee is roasted fresh nearly every day,” he said. “Ours is fresher.”