ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Family and business grow together with new owners of Stonehouse Coffee in Nisswa

Brittany Ohman and her parents bought Stonehouse Coffee and Roastery from Mike and Julie French in April 2022

Stonehouse Family
Brittany Ohman, front, stands with her parents, Jay and Nancy Kinkel, and her sister, Natalie Kinkel, in front of Stonehouse Coffee in downtown Nisswa, which Ohman and her parents bought in April 2022.
Megan Buffington / Echo Journal
We are part of The Trust Project.

NISSWA — Brittany Ohman dreamed of owning her own coffee shop for years. Now, that dream is finally coming true.

Ohman and her parents, Jay and Nancy Kinkel, bought Stonehouse Coffee and Roastery, based in Nisswa, from Mike and Julie French in April and are excited to continue building on the success the business has seen in the last 21 years.

“Instead of just starting from scratch, why not take over an established business?” Ohman said. “I worked here and learned from Mike and Julie, and I look forward to carrying that on and then adding my own stuff as well.”

Ohman started as a roaster at Stonehouse in 2018 and eventually became the manager. But her relationship with coffee actually began in 2012, while she was attending college in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

One of her professors, Sandi Luck, owned a coffee shop, and Ohman began working there. That was when she fell in love with coffee, everything from the customer relations to the science behind the coffee itself.

ADVERTISEMENT

After Ohman moved home, Luck reached out to her about managing a new coffee shop in Fargo, North Dakota. That was where Ohman gained more experience in business management and marketing.

“(I learned) how to talk to people and how to manage the employees I had,” Ohman said. “But Fargo was not the area for me and I was seeing my now-husband here, moved to Brainerd, Stonehouse was hiring for a roaster and so I was like, ‘What better opportunity to learn in coffee?’”

When Ohman started as a roaster, Mike French had been roasting coffee for over a decade. But, the business Ohman joined in 2018 was quite different from the little shop that started in 2001. The Frenches started in one small room, which is now the business’s bakery.

It’s been a wonderful experience. And it just kind of kept growing. We didn’t know the kind of work we were getting into.
Mike French

“It was not very busy for a time,” Julie French said. “When we started roasting coffee, then it really took off.”

The Frenches spent the next couple of decades watching their business expand to include a roastery and three locations, two in Nisswa and one in Baxter.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Mike French said. “And it just kind of kept growing. We didn’t know the kind of work we were getting into.”

After leaving Stonehouse for a year to work in Park Rapids with her parents, Ohman returned with her family in tow to purchase the business, including the roastery, bakery and all three locations.

“I couldn’t do it without them,” Ohman said. “We worked together at my parents’ commercial laundromats for 25 years. We never got any other jobs and if we did it was together as a family. To be once again working as a family is just natural.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Brittany Ohman, left, and her sister, Natalie Kinkel, promote Stonehouse Coffee in Nisswa, which Ohman bought in April 2022 with her parents.
Brittany Ohman and Natalie Kinkel showing off their Stonehouse pride.
Megan Buffington / Echo Journal

Ohman grew up in Park Rapids with her parents and two sisters, who will also be involved in the business. The family keeps growing too, with Ohman’s 3-month-old son born just weeks before her family took over and her sister’s son born just a few days ago.

“We have two little boys who will be growing up here at Stonehouse,” Ohman said with a smile.

Nancy Kinkel, Ohman’s mother, is excited for the busy summer.

“I learned how to bake. I’ve made macarons. I’ve cleaned, all with a baby on my hip.” she said.

“We’re all working one handed,” Ohman joked.

They will have their hands full this summer. The Kinkels will still be managing their laundry business in Park Rapids, in addition to commuting to help at the coffee shop when they can.

“It’s gonna be busy, but it’ll all work itself out,” Kinkel said. “And it’ll get easier because we’re getting organized.”

Ohman is eager for the opportunity to get to know the Nisswa community more and become more involved with the Baxter community as well.

ADVERTISEMENT

“A lot of the regulars that have known Mike and Julie still ask about them,” she said. “(I want to) introduce myself as the new person and reach out to the younger crowd, too.”

Those regulars are one aspect the Frenches will miss the most about the business.

“The people is the biggest thing - you know, customers, getting to know people and developing relationships and being a part of a really great company,” Julie French said.

“After doing something 20 years, you’ve seen people be born, grow up, go to college,” Mike French said. “You’ve seen people pass away and we’ve had lots of experience with loss over that amount of time, as well as acquisition of new relationships. You develop this real strong relationship with them, and you communicate a lot with them, and it’s like a certain kind of friendship.”

The Frenches are happy with the direction the business is going.

“There will be things to work out, things they want to do differently, things they want to keep the same, whatever,” Julie French said. “But I think they’ll keep the good Stonehouse products.”

We’ll see what the future holds. But I’m always evolving and changing and creating new things.
Brittany Ohman

Ohman does plan to keep things mostly the same.

“As far as right now, everything as far as recipes and drinks and products will stay the same,” Ohman said. “We’re only planning to add to it.”

Gluten-free macarons are the first addition of what Ohman hopes to be more to come. She also hopes to do community outreach and partner with other businesses to offer evening events.

“We’ll see what the future holds,” Ohman said. “But I’m always evolving and changing and creating new things.”

While they have no shortage of great managers, baristas and leadership, there is one thing they just can’t find enough of.

“Time,” Ohman said, sighing. “There’s just not enough hours in the day to get done what I want to get done.”

Megan Buffington, Echo Journal intern, may be reached at 218-855-5854 or  megan.buffington@pineandlakes.com . She is a 2021 Pequot Lakes High School graduate who attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Related Topics: NISSWABUSINESSFAMILY
What To Read Next
Scarlett Langenfeld selected for position
Photographs from historic Brainerd events will be on view
Schedules listed for the food shelf, CommUnity Meals, family planning and more
The donation will assist with the on-going medical expenses the family is experiencing.