The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 24, 2008

Fillin' Station reopening

Loyal customers take notice

MANKATO — Steph Jarett knows good coffee.

Just 21 years old, she ran a coffee shop called Nina’s Coffee Cafe in St. Paul before moving to the Mankato area in February of ’07. And when a mutual customer between her old coffee shop and the Fillin’ Station put in a good word and helped her get a job at the South Front Street location, she understood right away why customers were so loyal.

The Fillin’ Station had that charisma of being the stylish little guy among so many big coffee chains in town. It had the attitude of being the downtown neighborhood gathering place, where the coffee is the focus and the atmosphere encouraged people to put their feet up and enjoy it there.

That’s why, as word spread that the Fillin’s owner was looking to move back to the Cities and that the building already had been sold, a collective gasp almost could be heard among the coffee shop’s cult following.

Jarett quickly put the caffeine-aholics at ease, however, when a new rumor began to spread that Jeff Palmer, owner of Wholesale Fitness Outlet next door, had bought the Fillin’ and would reopen it in the front part of his building just a few feet from its previous location. Jarett would take over as manager, with her fiancé, Mike Willaford, as her right hand.

Now, Jarett is happy to report, the Fillin’ is just days from reopening. The soft opening is Feb. 1.

“This is the first time the phone has been quiet,” Palmer said.

Jarett said people see her and Willaford and constantly ask when the coffee shop will be open. They’re excited about the anticipation that seems to be building and expect to have a line at the door at 7 a.m. when they open.

Neither Jarett, Willaford nor Palmer seem to be concerned about another coffee shop opening next door in the old Fillin’ Station location. Developer Shawn Clow bought the building, and Jarett said a former regular customer of the old location will be running the place. Neither could be reached.

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