Jacob and Alexandra Ebsen have opened a coffee shop in downtown Milbank called Simply Coffee. The name, they say, comes from the idea that they’re just simple people trying to do God’s work. Jacob says, “We love people and we love coffee.” They hope a comfy place to enjoy a cup and meet old or new friends will get things brewing in Milbank. Maybe even stir up some big dreams.
After all, Benjamin Franklin frequented a coffee shop to read and play chess with his friends. Without Ben and coffee, we might not have electricity. Without coffee, we might not have as many National Parks either, as President Teddy Roosevelt reportedly drank a gallon a day. His son described his coffee mug as “more in the nature of a bathtub.” And don’t forget Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, and Ronald Reagan. They were all coffee aficionados. (Americanos anyone?)
Coffee inspired Alexandra, too. She was an administrator in the church office, but now works full time at the coffee shop. She says, “A quick way to become a morning person is to own a coffee shop. I forced myself to start enjoying mornings and see the beauty in a sunrise. It changes your whole attitude.”
In addition to working in their coffee business, Jacob serves as a part-time youth minister and drives a long-haul truck full time. That might be one of the reasons he likens coffee to fuel, but the connection goes back even further. Both he and Alexandra were baristas at Starbucks in Aberdeen while they attended Northern State University. Jacob helped to prepare the Starbucks for its opening, and he was the shift lead when it opened. He recalls with a laugh, “I knew nothing about coffee when I first started. I didn’t even know it came from a little green bean — everyone thinks they are brown, but that doesn’t happen until they’re roasted.”
Simply Coffee buys their coffee from a roaster in Benson, Minnesota called Go, Set, Ready. The owners discovered inspiration in coffee and went from working as an aircraft mechanic and office manager to coffee roasters. They named their company after a chapter in the book, Draw the Circle, by Mark Batterson. Batterson recounts the legend of Honi the Circle Maker – “a man bold enough to draw a circle in the sand and not budge from inside it until God answered his impossible prayer for his people.” Batterson asks, “What impossibly big dream is God calling you to draw a prayer circle around?”
Jacob and Alexandra say when they decided to pursue their dream of owning a coffee shop, they were grateful to God for leading them and grateful to Sarah and Craig Weinberg, owners of VPD Studio, for helping them. The Weinbergs opened their door to the Ebsens — Simply Coffee is nestled in the VPD building, right behind VPD Studio. (The lounge vibe with tables and chairs and two soft sofas practically begs you to sit down and sip your German chocolate or vanilla latte.)
The Weinbergs were also instrumental in creating the coffee shop’s logo. Although, Jacob had a hand in it, too. Literally. The Simply Coffee font was handwritten and fashioned by Sarah; Craig and Alexandra developed the overall design. If you look closely, you will see a white wave incorporated in it.
As almost everyone in Milbank knows, Jacob uses a distinct wave. It’s the shaka hand wave, which you make by curling your three middle fingers while extending your thumb and baby finger. (For emphasis, quickly turn your hand back and forth with the knuckles facing outward.) Jacob’s mother, Joanne Ebsen, hails from Hawaii, and Jacob’s wave is a nod to their Hawaiian heritage.
The wave is such an important part of Jacob and Alexandra’s life they knew it had to be a part of their business. Last September, on Jacob’s birthday, he and Alexandra had the wave inked on each of their hands. It’s subtle — you might miss it if you don’t know it’s there — but strong in symbolism. Jacob and Alexandra got engaged in Hawaii and plan to go back soon for his grandmother’s 90th birthday.
Alexandra says, “Putting the shakka hand wave in the logo, was like putting our heart and soul in the business. We hope to show others that God is saying he will take you by the hand and show you that you have a purpose.”
Being able to take each other by the hand is a big help, too. As Alexandra says,”I would never have the courage or motivation to do this alone.” Jacob says, “There’s not one other person I would choose for this journey.” Guess they just want to espresso their gratitude for each other. Or maybe they want to say life is like an amazing cup of coffee- it’s all about how you make it and who you drink it with.
Simply Coffee invites you to stop by Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m.- 4 p.m. Closed Wednesdays. Find them at 307 S. Main Street in the VPD Studio building.