“Cakes by Monica” and Chef Jim aren’t uncommon names in Vermillion, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
Monica Iverson and Jim Waters have been business partners for six years. They own Café Brulé and the Dakota Brick House in downtown Vermillion. Last week, they opened up their “baby Brulé,” as they call it, on Cherry Street.
Bru2 opened in the First Dakota National Bank earlier this month, on Café Brulé’s six-year anniversary.
“The bank was planning on putting a coffee shop up so they asked us if we were interested,” Iverson said. “We’ve been banking with that bank for many years, so they help finance Café Brulé and the Brickhouse.”
Iverson said First Dakota National Bank wanted to keep their new coffee shop on more of a local level, rather than putting in a Starbucks or Caribou Coffee. The new coffee shop also has a drive-thru, which is something Iverson thinks customers will like.
“We have a lot of customers at the Café who’ve often wished that we had a drive-thru because sometimes it’s difficult to get to the Café with the parking situation and it’s a little bit more convenient for people that are driving downtown or going out of town for the day,” she said. “It was convenient for us to be able to offer that to our customers and for the town.”
What’s on the menu
Waters said Bru2, which seats about 20 people, offers more of a laid-back feel than Café Brulé.
“There’s outlets by all the tables and that sort of thing so people can come plug in their computers, drink coffee and study,” he said.
Iverson said Bru2 offers the same coffee choices that Café Brulé does, along with new items such as “The Hulk,” which is a green power smoothie. There are also other smoothies, iced drinks, Italian cream sodas and the “grab and go’s” such as Naked juices and Kind bars.
“I think a lot of people think it’s just pretty much a drive-thru, but we do offer sandwiches, soups and even breakfast sandwiches, and they are not the kind that you get from most convenient stores and just pop in the microwave,” Iverson said. “We want to keep the menu limited so it’s manageable because it is a smaller space than our Café, but we still think it could be a nice destination for people to sit and study or come for a quick lunch.”
Iverson said they’ve always been interested in offering healthy options.
“We’ve really kind of tried to gear away from fast food in everything we do and we use fresh ingredients and good quality food,” she said.
As for prices, Iverson and Waters said they’ll be similar or even less than costs at Café Brulé.
Their current hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays.
A place for everyone
Tammi Kwilinski, the general manager of Bru2, said she hopes to see the coffee shop grow into a place where people
“I hope to see that this becomes a place that everybody comes to to have a great cup of coffee through the drive-thru or to sit down and eat,” Kwilinski said. “It’s a great lunchtime place for those that work around here or for people on the go and for students to come
Iverson said Kwilinski has worked part-time for many years at Café Brulé and they thought she would be a perfect fit for Bru2 because of her relationship with the students and general population.
“I love people,” Kwilinski said. “Being around people energizes me. I think I found my niche, my place to be. They’re great to work for and it’s nice being part of the community in a smaller business environment. I really enjoy it.”
When it comes to their customers, Waters said they try to appeal to a wide demographic.
“The students all leave during the summer, so if you don’t have the other base to draw from then you’re really hurting in the summer,” Waters said. “So we have found through Café Brulé, that by offering a variety, our summers do pretty well.”
Iverson and Waters hope the new coffee shop appeals to people driving, students and the general population.
“We’d love to see it become a study place for students or for locals to read a book and hangout,” Iverson said. “We would love to see more drive-thru action. We think that being down here on Main we often lose a lot of people that might be traveling through on Cherry. So we think that will bring people into Bru2 and then they’ll maybe find out about our downtown Café and come have supper down there.”
The co-owners said they aren’t looking to compete with the other businesses in Vermillion — they just want to bring more
people to town.
“We’ve always felt like there’s enough business in the area for all of us and we frequent the other businesses as well,” Iverson said. “We are all about not necessarily competing, but making it so Vermillion becomes a destination so more people will come to town. So I feel like if you make a good product, put out good food, have good service and a prompt drive-thru, people are just going to keep coming back.”