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Yellow Bike Coffee opens in Duluth's Airpark

The menu of specialty coffee and pastries mirrors that of the Fitger's Yellow Bike Coffee location. Once the new kitchen is complete, craft food options will be available at the Airpark site.

A man and girl order from a woman in a Yellow Bike T-shirt behind the counter next to a case of pastries.
Yellow Bike owner Shannon Cornelius greets customers as she takes an order at the new Yellow Bike Coffee location, 4411 Venture Ave., Duluth.
Contributed / Sayler Photos

DULUTH โ€” Yellow Bike Coffee opened its new location Saturday in the Airpark division.

Yellow Bike Coffee owner Shannon Cornelius is leasing the building at 4411 Venture Ave., which was purchased for $975,000 by YBRE LLC in October. It was formerly home to ASP Mechanical, Inc.

A yellow bicycle hangs overhead on an aluminum paneled wall. A man in a jacket awaits his coffee order.
A customer awaits his order on Saturday during the opening of Yellow Bike Coffee's Airpark location.
Contributed / Sayler Photos

The 9,600-square-foot building features a cafe with seating for 40 people; a production space to roast coffee; a private event space; a conference room with seating for 20 people; private office rentals; and a coworking space. There is also an outdoor south-facing patio, in addition to a shared parking lot with 30 spaces.

Work on the kitchen and permanent coffee bar is underway and expected to be complete and fully licensed by the fall. For now, customers can expect the same menu as the Fitger's Yellow Bike location, including specialty coffee and bakery items. Eventually, the cafe will serve craft food options.

"The difference between the two locations is very dramatic," Cornelius said. "Fitger's Yellow Bike is a walk-up counter. Eighty percent of the clientele are tourists. This Airpark location is a sit-down, serving mostly repeat customers. They're actually complete opposites. Having that diversity in the business model is what we were looking for."

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The new location fulfills a need to serve those working in the area, she said, including the professionals at Cirrus Aircraft, the 148th Fighter Wing and more. The Duluth International Airport is also nearby.

"I am excited to be part of the growing business structure of Duluth and wanting to see more positive outcomes for businesses in Duluth," Cornelius said.

Hours at the new location are Mondays-Fridays from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Staffing will be shared between the two locations.

A small group of people converse at a coffee table.
A small group converses at a table inside Yellow Bike Coffee's new Venture Avenue location Saturday.
Contributed / Sayler Photos

Yellow Bike Coffee was founded in 2017 at its original location in Hermantown on the corner of U.S. Highway 53 and Lavaque Road. The cafe's namesake goes back to early childhood memories of learning to ride a yellow banana-seat bicycle, Cornelius said.

"Knowing that this is the vehicle I wanted to use to invest in the community, I wanted something that was memorable and different, but could touch as many people as possible," Cornelius said. "Yellow is a happy, accessible color. Bikes are universal. It doesn't matter if you are affluent or poor; it's an equal playing field. Usually, learning to ride a bike is the first milestone of individual success."

Two women seated in the cafe's loft under dim lighting. A yellow bicycle hands on the aluminum paneling of the walls.
The name of Yellow Bike Cafe was inspired by a common childhood experience of riding a bike. The interior of the cafe has an industrial feel with its aluminum-paneled walls and yellow bike decor.
Contributed / Sayler Photos

As stated on its website, "Even though most of those early days were spent on the ground gathering bumps and bruises, getting up and getting back at it continued. Finally, with momโ€™s hand on the back of the seat, balance was found."

Much like learning to ride a bike, the former business contract developer experienced a few skinned knees while seeking balance in starting her own business.

During the pandemic, the coffee shop vacated its home of five years June 28, 2022, after being denied a request for a two-year extension on their lease. Its expansions to the Lake Superior College campus and The YMCA at Essentia Wellness Center in Hermantown were both short-lived ventures that closed in fall of 2022.

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"We didn't know what the future held," Cornelius said. "I grew up in Hermantown, so it was sad to leave there because it felt like we were servicing my childhood community. Departure from that space was a blow to the business. It was completely unexpected, which had catastrophic ramifications. We had to reevaluate the business and who we wanted to be."

If we were going down, we were going to help the people we love.
Shannon Cornelius

Compounded by the uncertainty many food and beverage businesses faced due to mandated closures during the pandemic, Cornelius decided to take action.

"If we were going down, we were going to help the people we love," she said.

A yellow bag of Yellow Bike Coffee's Fired Up sits on a wood shelf next to a ceramic mug.
Yellow Bike Coffee has five flavors in its Hero Roast collection. Eight percent of all Hero Roast proceeds go toward community organizations.
Contributed / Sayler Photos

Yellow Bike Coffee in partnership with MidCoast Catering Co. and The Rambler raised more than $20,000 in community donations with the Look Out for the Helpers initiative, delivering over 3,000 sandwich, coffee and pastry "Love Bombs" to the front-line health care workers, first responders, law enforcement and others who were unable to stay home.

In the interim of finding a new permanent location, Yellow Bike later served coffee and pastries from its trailer at the Cirrus Aircraft parking lot.

"At the time, there was a need for a mobile coffee trailer in Duluth. We figured it would be a fun adventure," she said.

A man wearing a winter hat laughs and drinks coffee at a table near the window.
Customers enjoy their coffee during the opening of Yellow Bike Coffee's new location in Duluth's Airpark on Saturday.
Contributed / Sayler Photos

For Cornelius, Yellow Bike Coffee is just the conduit she uses to spread a larger message of positivity to the community. This is portrayed through the sales of Hero Roasts, where 8% of the proceeds goes toward organizations such as Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Jungle Gym, Recovery Alliance Duluth and Blessed With More. There are accompanying podcasts for each of the five Hero Roast flavors available on the Yellow Bike Coffee website .

"The ideal of the American coffee shop is a place where people connect and engage in a deep and meaningful way. Yellow Bike is whatever somebody needs that day, we just set the environment and experience. Coffee at a coffee shop is just the platform. It's the tool we use for an underlying purpose," Cornelius explained.

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This story was updated at 12:56 p.m. March 21 to correct the purchase price of the building. It was originally posted at 6 a.m. March 21. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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