Local coffee shop wafts students away to coffee-laden dreamland
Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 15:02
“Alright buddy, welcome to Caffeine Dreams. Be prepared, though, because this place makes Starbucks look like a nightmare,” said Molly Misek, a 20-year-old Creighton University student who has just strolled into her personal mecca- the hipster filled coffee shop Caffeine Dreams.
Outfitted in a dark grey vest, black jeans that hug her shape and resplendent red sneakers, Misek and a friend waltz to the deep-oak front counter of Caffeine Dreams to order a roasting hot medium black tea to warm her on a cool October Friday. With drink in hand, Misek finds a table in the back of the coffee shop next to a large smoky fireplace, with bricks so wide and varied in color that it wouldn’t look out of place in a Thomas Kinkade painting. The scent of ground coffee beans wafting with her from the front of the shop to her table as soft rock music flows from Dreams’ speakers, Misek settles into her seat. She is home.
Located at 4524 Farnam St., Caffeine Dreams is a locally run coffee shop that has been open since 2000 and continues to create its own mold for how a coffee shop must run to be successful. Opposing the franchise and mega-chain model set forth by cafés like Starbucks or Scooters, Dreams has only one location but has managed to thrive due to its loyal customers.
“Caffeine Dreams has the hipster subculture thingy those other big corporations don’t,” Misek said. “Since it’s locally owned, it makes you feel better about the service and what they do for you. Don’t get me wrong, I still go to places like Starbucks. I just never feel as home there as I do here.”
A slender brick building, Dreams stands about 30 feet tall and looks like a relic from the past. From the exterior, it contrasts the modern design of the Nebraska Medical Center and Midtown Crossing shopping district, both located just mere blocks from the café.
Originally, the building was part of a lumber yard in the early twentieth century. In between being the home to tons of timber and now one of Omaha’s quirkiest local businesses, the building was a bar called Three Cheers and a private residence. Within its history, it survived two fires before being bought by Dreams’ owner Mike Brannan in 2000.
“I’d say it’s pretty darn artsy now,” said Meg Welch, manager of Dreams. “It’s got this kind of ‘90s college student vibe, so we attract a lot of eccentric regulars. We seem to pull in a lot of the really creative type.”
Their eccentric regulars are immediately welcomed to the café by the scent of the shop’s self-ground coffee beans as it filters through their noses. Greeting people in the front room is a large counter that’s manned by two baristas. Tiny pastries and sandwiches are displayed in a glass case, and above the counter hang menus of all the drink specials written on chalkboards. It’s there that customers order such concoctions as Pigedream Muse, or simply known as a caramel latte at most other coffee shops.
Going beyond the front door and through a stone archway exists a large room where patrons sit to sip their java at one of the dozen wooden tables or on the plush red couches that surround the massive fireplace. Large windows anchor the high bricks walls of the room, spots of yellow and flashes of red from the autumn leaves outside displayed like artwork within the panes.
In the back of this room, a staircase curls up like a corkscrew to a little ledge that overlooks the rest of Dreams. It’s here where bands perform or poetry is read on open microphone nights. From here, customers can walk out a backdoor that leads into a gated patio and garden. In this back area lies a stone path that weaves between weeping trees, tiny metal tables and black light poles.
“I come here again and again partly because of the environment,” said Ashley Debolt, longtime customer and University of Nebraska at Omaha student. “It’s a place where misfits and regular folk can fit in together. You just never know what you’re gonna find here.”
It’s these misfits who keep returning to be a part of the Dream, helping the business to thrive. Without utilizing standards avenues for advertising such as radio or TV commercials, the café has been supported by positive word-of-mouth instead.
“Our customers are pretty great about getting our name out there for us,” Welch said. “I think it’s better than having to listen to some annoying, crappy radio commercial that you can just turn off anyways. If your friend is going to tell you to check a place out, it’s much more trustworthy.”
Sitting at the front counter of Dreams, the 25-year-old Welch stirs her tea, held in a Mason jar with a red bandanna tied around it and appearing to be nothing more than liquid grass. “I like things that taste like yard,” Welch quips while slurping her murky swamp tea. She’s as vague about just how much the café makes financially within a given week as she is about what’s exactly in her tea, just stating that they make “dozens of dollars” per week before laughing at her own words. It’s clear from the packed lounge behind her though that Dreams is in on the joke to, appearing to be laughing all the way to the bank.