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Coffeehouse dreams

Pam Noah quit her job as a social worker in Perham in November, but started work on a new coffeehouse on the northside of Detroit Lakes not long after. She and her husband, Mike, own the building.

When Pam Noah quit her 12-year job in November, it only took her a couple of weeks to decide on a new career: barista.

There was already empty space in the same building next to Michael's furniture, which she and husband Mike own, and having grown up on the north side of Detroit Lakes, it was the perfect location for a coffee shop with all the bells and whistles: gifts, espresso, sandwiches, drive through, indoor and outdoor seating.

After signing the paperwork to get started on Jan. 1, The Social Cup opened for business just over six months later, on June 15, with roaring success.

At one point on opening morning, Noah said there were 20 people sitting in the cushy leather chairs drinking coffee and chatting with friends - a solid start by any measure - and the steady customer flow continued all week.

Since she decided to start slow and not advertise the space right away, Noah said she had no idea what to expect during those first few days, especially since she and Mike have no experience in the food industry (although, her employees do).

But despite the unpredictable nature, Noah said she's looking forward to a job that is less stressful and different from what her days have consisted of for the last 12 years.

Noah was a social worker (that's how "The Social Cup" got it's name - get it?) in the Perham school district doing group therapy under Lakeland Mental Health, and said the environment had simply gotten too stressful and, in some ways, dangerous for her to stay in her position.

She said she thought about going back to school for an advanced degree, but decided against it, wanting something that was "less stressful" and more carefree.

"This atmosphere has got to be more pleasant than dealing with abused kids and their parents," she said.

Opening a coffee shop in that location had been an option for a while, she said, "but I really enjoyed my job, and it never quite felt like the right time."

She and Mike had used the space as storage for mattresses not on display at their furniture stores. They also own Noah's in Detroit Lakes.

The first opening date was originally going to be in March, Pam Noah said, and then April, and then finally in June.

"We started out with the idea of being pretty small and simple, but that expanded and it ended up being a bit more work," she said. "As with anything, plans get a little out of control."

Still, Noah said there's "nothing I'd do differently."

Much of the area is fraught with memories - not only did Noah grow up on the north side, but her brother used to work in the meat department when the space was Evan's grocery store.

"This whole building has history to me," she said. "I'm still using the swing-in doors from the meat department. They had been moved and were sitting in storage."

Since the building also houses the furniture store and Curves on the other end, Noah considers it a great location.

"It's nice because people can go furniture shopping, and then come over here and mull it over, and Curves is right there," she said. "Some of the ladies sound like they're excited to have a place up here, and I'm trying to have fresh, healthy food every day."

And even though the north side of Detroit Lakes isn't exactly a burgeoning metropolis of growth, Noah is happy to bring some life up.

"If our furniture store and Curves wasn't here, if I didn't grow up here, I would be concerned," she said. "I don't like to see it looking so bleak, so if it sparks anything in anyone, I feel good about that."

What about opening a small business during a recession?

"I was (concerned), and I am, still, probably, but at the same time, coffee is coffee, and it's one of those things that people still drink during bad times," she said. "I remember walking in the mall or around other coffee shops, and although people might cut back on food or other things, the lines for coffee are still long, so that's encouraging."

As business gets going, she said she'll look into expanding services, like wine and cheese in the evenings, renting out the 50-person-capacity space for small parties, or taking bulk coffee orders for area workplaces.

Right now, though, The Social Cup offers a full coffee house menu, with hot and cold brews, smoothies, blended coffees, Italian sodas, tea, chai, fresh-baked pastries every morning, sandwiches, salads, and wi-fi. Open Monday through Saturday. Call 844-COFE (2366)