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MPR News

At Kopplin's, tipping is out so workers get a raise
By Nikki Tundel | February 1, 2015

Kopplin's Coffee

If you're looking for raspberry, pumpkin or cookie dough-flavored drinks, Kopplin's Coffee probably isn't your best bet.

The cafe on St. Paul's western edge is modeled after traditional European coffee shops. It doesn't do decaf. There aren't any fancy toppings. But everyone seems just fine with that.

There was, however, a bit of commotion last month when Kopplin's eliminated one of the staples of American coffee shop culture: the tip jar.

"We basically decided we wanted to ban it," owner Andrew Kopplin said.

Some customers of the Marshall Avenue shop assumed taking away the tip jar meant taking money out of employees' pockets. But Kopplin said it's just the opposite.

"We raised our prices and then we gave our employees a significant raise so that they no longer have to rely on gratuity as part of their compensation," he said.

For Kopplin, the standard coffeehouse business model — lower wages supplemented by tips — never felt quite right.

"It rewards employees who work in the mornings because that's when we're busy," he explained. "But it doesn't reward employees who clean the whole shop afterwards because that's not 'tippable' work."

Kopplin's wife Amanda, who co-owns the shop, looked into pooling tips and redistributing them based on hours worked. But she said pay inequalities remained.

"If you were working an evening shift in July, there were literally people who made 50 cents for their whole shift in tips," she said. "Then a Saturday morning in September you're making $35 in tips. How can we say to people, 'Oh, you're just as important even though you're making less'?"

Espresso Nikki Tundel / MPR News
The Kopplins decided to eliminate tips completely and raise the base pay from $9 an hour to $12.50. To do this, they needed to increase prices by 20 percent, adding about a buck to each drink. But before moving ahead, the owners wanted the approval of the nine employees who work the counter.

"If I'm going to put out a little sign that [tells customers] we'e charging you more to benefit our employees," Andrew Kopplin said, "the employees better agree that they're benefitting."

So the first week in December, Kopplin presented his proposal to employees.

"He gave us pie charts and graphs," recalled barista Anna McFall. "I think he was pretty nervous about how we would receive it, but everyone at the table was just beaming."

McFall even remembers some clapping.

Amanda Kopplin was taken aback by the employees' reactions.

"A couple of them almost started crying," she said. "Like, wow, these are people who totally trust us and are behind what we're doing and that's amazing. It's so important that they know we value them."

A month ago, a cappuccino would have cost $3.50. Today it's $4.25. The Kopplins worried about how customers would react to such price increases, but they've received very little criticism.

New business plan Nikki Tundel / MPR News
Some even champion the change.

"Actually with the price increase, it equals to what I was paying with the tip before," said one customer on a recent morning. "And to know that they're going to have a steady wage every day is a good feeling."

There is one recurring and unanticipated complaint.

"The major problem," Andrew Kopplin said, "has literally been people being like, 'Well, I still want to tip.'"

Some customers say they feel like bad people if they don't tip, employee Tabitha Blanchard said.

"Usually the response I give is, 'We don't have to rely on tips anymore so you're already supporting us enough by buying these drinks,'" she said.

Still, there are some who will do just about anything to leave a tip, Oliver O'Doherty said.

"They'll wink at us," he said, "and say, 'Oh, you can put this towards the next customer's beverage. Wink wink.'"

Chatting Nikki Tundel / MPR News
Others leave change on the bar or tuck dollars under the cash register when baristas aren't looking.

Those "forced tips," as the employees refer to them, end up being donated to a local food shelf.

The way Andrew Kopplin sees it, gratuity can come in forms other than financial. That idea inspired one employee to put out a comments book.

"Writing in it can be a sort of replacement for tipping," Kopplin said. "It's a way to show you're grateful. You can express gratitude without giving money, even in a coffee shop."

"My favorite entry is from one of our regular customers who drew a picture," Blanchard said, "and then wrote a haiku and then wrote a comment encouraging other people to write haikus. So there are a number of haikus in that section."

Customers take their own individual approaches to it, Amanda Kopplin said.

"Some write personal stories, like, 'Oh, I remember the first time I came here. It was on my first date with my husband,'" she said. "Others write about the great mocha they had or whatever. I love that people are using it in their own way."

Many Minnesotans complain about the pervasiveness of tip jars. But complaining is one thing and being deemed a non-tipper is another, said Amanda Kopplin, recalling a recent conversation with a wanna-be tipper.

"She said, 'Well, how do I thank you then for the gesture? You just bringing that out to my table was so nice and I just want to tell you it was a really nice experience,' Amanda Kopplin said. "And I was like, 'That's how you say thank you, by saying thank you."

Regulars Nikki Tundel / MPR News
Nice words aren't a replacement for tips in most coffee shops. But at Kopplin's, O'Doherty said, the elimination of the tip jar has been a perk.

"There's a lot of minor psychic white noise in the background as each person decides should I tip or not tip," he said. "Or there's the, 'Oh, that person never tips.' And as much as we'd like to be above that sort of mentality, it's nice to do away with it."

McFall, the barista, said the cafe's ban on tipping means more natural interactions with customers.

"I was already pretty proud of this place and proud to work here," said McFall. "But I feel even more so now. I feel like I get to declare every day that this is a progressive, good place to work."


Think Progress

Workers At This Coffee Shop Make $12.50 An Hour And Don’t Have To Worry About Tips
Think Progress
By Bryce Covert | February 4, 2015

Andrew Kopplin and his wife Amanda have operated their coffee shop Kopplin’s Coffee in St. Paul, Minnesota for eight years. But they made a big change in January: they swapped the tip jar for a living wage.

A big part of the inspiration for the change came from realizing how unstable Kopplin’s employees were. “They weren’t really disgruntled or anything like that,” he told ThinkProgress. “I was just watching them and realizing…this is a stress we should figure out.” Those who worked Monday mornings were nearly guaranteed to make more tips; those working late on a Friday would probably make less, just because business was slower.
And it didn’t make sense for him to have workers making less during the slower periods anyway. “There’s plenty of work that should be done in the afternoon when not as many people are there,” he noted. Things need to be cleaned; items need to be stocked. “If that doesn’t happen, we’re in trouble,” he said. “That’s not tipped work normally, but it’s necessary work.”

The shop also prides itself in retaining staff and wants to make it even more attractive to stick around. “We’ve been lucky with loyalty… We keep people on average for two years, which is pretty high for coffee shops,” he said proudly. A more stable wage and one that’s easier to live off of can keep people around. That brings the coffee shop benefits, as customers “get to know the baristas who work there, because the baristas stick around for a while.”

He and his wife spent six months running the numbers to make sure that the company could afford to increase pay but that employees would still all make more under the new regime than they had making tips. Then they sat down with employees to see what they thought. “They were like, ‘This is great, we’d love to do this,'” he said. “That was the go point for me, when I had 100 percent employee support.”

The starting wage at the coffee shop is now $12.50 an hour. But he says that most employees are making more because they’ve been working with him for a year or more and they get reviews with the potential for raises every six months.

The change has been positive. “Before, employees were always trying to scrape up enough money to get by,” he said. “Now if I’m working, I don’t have to worry. If you’re working you don’t have to count tips.” He knows this from first-hand experience, as he works behind the counter alongside his employees five days a week. “Tips were big for me too,” he said. “So it was a big shift for me to get paid [without them].”

But it hasn’t come for free for the consumer: To cover the increased cost of labor, the store raised its prices by about 20 percent. He and his wife took potential lost sales with higher prices into account when deciding whether to get rid of tips. But he doesn’t think it’s been a huge disruption for customers. “We’re already a high-end speciality shop, so our prices were already higher,” he said. Plus “for a lot of customers they’re not paying that much different…because they were tossing a dollar in the tip jar anyway.”

Now he says his prices are “honest.” If tipping is optional, he reasons, then why not bake that extra money into the price of the coffee? “If you’re going to be mad at people for not tipping a dollar, just charge them a dollar more,” he said. “This price reflects what coffee costs to make fairly.”

Tipping is such an expected part of the restaurant industry that there’s even a lower minimum wage for those who make gratuity: the federal floor is $2.13 an hour for tipped workers, although some states require them to be paid the same minimum wage as other workers. But Kopplin’s Coffee isn’t the first eatery to think about getting rid of them and paying a higher wage. Restaurants from Pittsburgh to Kentucky to New York to the West Coast have done the same thing, as has a brewpub in Washington, D.C.

Owners have realized that not only does tipping introduce unpredictability into workers’ lives, it doesn’t actually improve the quality of service, which only accounts for a percentage point or so in the difference in tip sizes. Instead, tips have more to do with whether a server is white, female, attractive, or touches a customer on the arm. A server’s need to work for tips can also create an atmosphere that leads to sexual harassment: nearly 80 percent of women in the restaurant industry say they’ve been harassed by a customer.

Read article

Good Magazine Forget Tips, This Coffee Shop Pays Its Employees A Living Wage
GOOD Magazine
By Rafi Schwartz | February 6, 2015

Forget Tips, This Coffee Shop Pays Its Employees A Living Wage
by Rafi Schwartz

Just over the Mississippi River, on the St. Paul side of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, is a block of neighborhood businesses which includes a boutique ice cream parlor, a small bakery, and Kopplin’s Coffee, a high end European-style coffee shop that’s been serving customers for nearly a decade. There, owners recently instituted a new policy that does away with one of the most recognizable coffee shop features – the tip jar. As of this past January, Andrew and wife Amanda Kopplin pay all their employees at least $12.50 an hour, a move designed to introduce a measure of stability in the lives – and paychecks – of those working a job not ordinarily known for its financial perks.

It’s a change that Kopplin’s employees embraced wholeheartedly. As barista Anna McFall told Minnesota Public Radio, the owners:

...gave us pie charts and graphs. I think [owner Andrew Kopplin] was pretty nervous about how we would receive it, but everyone at the table was just beaming

The owners were inspired to make the change, in part, after noticing the uneven tips his employees were making, depending on the shifts they’d been assigned to work. Andrew Kopplin told Think Progress:

“There’s plenty of work that should be done in the afternoon when not as many people are there. If that doesn’t happen, we’re in trouble. That’s not tipped work normally, but it’s necessary work.”

In making the move toward paying their employees a standard baseline wage that doesn’t necessitate tips, Kopplin’s Coffee has increased their prices by around twenty percent. It’s a change, Andrew explained to Think Progress, he sees as being more “honest,” as now prices more accurately reflect the costs of labor at his shop. As MPR notes, there’s been little criticism from customers.

Increased prices or not, the shift to a living wage for Kopplan’s employees hasn’t necessarily done away with their customers’ inclination toward leaving a dollar or two for their favorite barista. When given, clandestine tip are all donated to a local food shelf, and customers are instead encouraged to sign a guest book placed where the tip jar had once been. Andrew explains:

“Writing in it can be a sort of replacement for tipping. It's a way to show you're grateful. You can express gratitude without giving money, even in a coffee shop.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that makes a neighborhood coffee shop a neighborhood insitution.

Read article

CBS St. Paul Café Bans Tipping, Raises Wages
February 4, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Paul coffee shop has done away with tipping, and opted to pay their employeeshigher wages.

“We decided as a rule, as a group, to just ban tipping outright,” Kopplin’s Café co-owner Andrew Kopplin said.

He wanted to find a way to compensate his employees fairly, no matter what shift they worked.

“If you work here in the mornings, you can make a lot of money cuz it’s busier. It’s a coffee shopso at night it’s not as busy,” Kopplin said. “We looked at a lot of ways of dealing with the tips, but then we just finally kind of looked at what about kind of getting rid of the tips.”

Kopplin and his wife, who co-own the café together, took the idea to their nine employees.

“I was totally behind it,” employeeTony Hunt said. “All of us were taken by surprise, but the support was pretty much unanimous.”

Kopplin says all of his employees supported the move.

“We were not going to do it with one person left behind,” he said.
Base pay for employees went from $9 an hour to $12.50.

“They’re all making more and they’re making it more consistently,” Kopplin said. “The paycheck is the same in summer, when it’s our slow season, and at Christmas time when it’s really busy.”

To raise wages, they had to raise prices.

“Everything went up roughly 20 percent,” Kopplin said.

Overall, drinks went up about a dollar, but the customersdon’t seem to mind.

“It puts less pressure on me as a customer,” Dave Vidmar said. “I can just know that the priceis set and I don’t have to feel guilty about not tipping.”

Kopplin says they have not received much negative reaction.

“Once you’re compensated with money, like once you’re getting paid enough, that’s actually more meaningful than a dollar,” Kopplin said.
He also came up with another way for customers to show their gratitude by sharing their own story.

Kopplin also did a focusgroup with customers before making the adjustment, and they have not had any issues so far.

Read article
MPR Appetites: 'Third Wave' of Coffee Evolution Brings New Level of Artisanship
November 28, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The revolution in local food has a potable component — craft brewing and locally roasted coffee are rising in popularity, not just in the Twin Cities, but also in other parts of the state, such as Duluth.

MPR News: When you say third wave, what do you mean?

Norton: Think of diner coffee and Folgers as first wave: sweet, a bit nutty, often watery or characterless. Starbucks really typifies the second wave: higher prices, dark roasts; specialized coffee drinks, many of them very sweet or flavored.

Third wave is parallel to craft beer or artisan cheese. The beans are roasted much more carefully. The cups of coffee are often brewed on demand, one cup at a time. The roasting is often much lighter to show off natural flavor notes of the beans. There are a lot of interesting methods used to brew: Chemex, pour-over, or French press, for example. You'll often see latte art, not just as a "wow that's cool" thing, but as a sign that the milk was properly frothed.

MPR News: What are some third wave cafes in the Twin Cities?

Norton: There are plenty around, to greater or lesser extents. I think of Dogwood, Kopplin's, the Peace Coffee Cafe, and Bull Run, but that's not an exhaustive list. Go to any of those places and ask them about their roasting and brewing philosophies, and they'll have detailed, thoughtful answers for you.


Minnesota Monthly   The Twin Cities Greatest Hits
Minnesota Monthly
November, 2012

When we were first introduced to Kopplins several years ago, we didn’t think it could get any better. Its youthful proprietor, Andrew Kopplin, approached his trade with a dedication that helped kick off the Twin Cities’ coffee revolution: sourcing rare beans, hosting cuppings, and turning latté foam into art. Kopplin showed us that coffee could have the depth and personality of wine, with flavors ranging from bright citrus notes to funky forest mushrooms. (Even cream addicts took their beverages black.) He introduced us to the innovative Clover brewing machine and the luxury of Rogue hot chocolate. And then, last year, Kopplin further improved our coffee-drinking experience by moving his business to bigger, more comfortable digs.

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City Pages   Kopplin's Voted Best Coffee Shop 2012
City Pages

It's newer, it's bigger and, if it's possible, it's even better than its former home on Hamline. The Kopplin's space on Marshall Avenue is bright and full of room for spreading out work and laptops. There is now also a retail space where fans can buy chocolate and coffee paraphernalia. Andrew Kopplin takes his coffee very seriously. He doesn't even stock decaf because he believes the flavor of the bean is too compromised if the caffeine is removed. From a quality-crafted, individually brewed cup to the hot chocolate made with sultry, dark Rogue chocolate, every item in a cup is an exercise in elegance.

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MinnPost   Serious Java: The Twin Cities' New Generation of Artisan Coffee Shops MINNPOST
By Elizabeth Millard | February 24, 2012

Six years ago, when Kopplin's Coffee opened in St. Paul, it was unique in its approach to serving. Owner Andrew Kopplin wanted a shop that was similar to ones in Portland and Seattle, where patrons could get artfully brewed coffee, complete with "latte art" — those creative leaves and swirls that baristas produce in the foam atop a cup.

"There were a lot of coffee shops here, but nothing that was high end, not like it is on the West Coast," he says. "It took a few years, but it seems like it's really taking off now."

Kopplin's has been joined by a score of coffee shops where the menu is long, complex, and detailed. Places like Blue Ox, Quixotic, Angry Catfish, Spyhouse, Urban Bean, Peace Coffee, and Bull Run give patrons descriptions about each coffee, emphasizing its origin in terms of being fair trade and carefully roasted.

The baristas at these shops spend a luxuriously long time — sometimes to the frustration of get-it-and-go commuters — creating artful blends that seem to have more factors than a math problem.

"We're seeing more restaurants opening up where they're very conscious about ingredients, in terms of being local and sustainable," says Kopplin. "The same thing is now happening with coffee."

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Food & Wine   Where to Get Hot Chocolate in the U.S.
Food & Wine
January, 2012

This coffeehouse specializes in espresso drinks but also serves a superb hot chocolate that combines steamed organic milk, cocoa powder, and 70-percent-cacao bars handmade by Rogue Chocolatier's owner, Colin Gasko.

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The Current   Dining With Dara: St. Paul: Chocolate Powerhouse
THe Current
By Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl | January 11, 2012

This spring sees two new chocolate shops opening in St. Paul, and we've already seen the relocation of Kopplin's, Minnesota's greatest hot-chocolate maker as well as founding coffee-shop.

Kopplin's new location on Marshall — in the same block as Choo Choo Bob's and Izzy's Ice Cream — is a good six or seven times the size of the old location, next to the Nook. And they now have two killer hot chocolates, one made with Belgian Callebaut, (pronounced kull-about, or kull-abow, depending if you're in a Dutch-Belgian or French-Belgian accenting mood), and the other made with Rogue chocolate.

The Atlantic
  Kopplin's Rated One of "America's Coolest Coffeehouses"
Travel+Leisure / The Atlantic
By Joshua Pramis | November, 2011
Republished in The Atlantic January 23, 2012

This coffeehouse is truly about supporting the local community, so when you’re sipping your café miél—espresso that’s been sweetened with honey, rather than sugar—you can rest easy knowing the milk is from a locally raised grass-fed cow and the espresso is from Fair Trade and organic sources. Mark your calendar for November 25, 2011, when Kopplin’s opens in a new, improved space at 2038 Marshall Avenue.

Local Knowledge: Pick up a sweet pastry made at nearby Rustica bakery to accompany your caffeine fix—like the bostock, brioche soaked in orange flower water and topped with almond spread.

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Twin Cities Metro Magazine   Feature on Kopplin's "Symphony in a Cup"
Twin Cities METRO
By Quinton Skinner | August, 2011

It wasn’t terribly long ago that coffee was strictly an acrid, utilitarian beast (Denny’s cup might have been endless, but it was questionable whether one should have begun in the first place). Local in-store roasters Dunn Bros and ubiquitous juggernaut behemoth Starbucks raised the ante in terms of flavor and selection, but their greatest strength doubles as their Achilles heel: sameness and uniformity from cup to (resoundingly predictable) cup.

A growing local coffee roasting and preparing movement is bringing another perspective to the java conversation, though, by fostering a handmade artisanal approach. A recent visit to Kopplin’s in St. Paul found the place packed with a mid-day throng of students, parents and commuters—all willing to pay more-than-Caribou prices for individually made coffees and cappuccinos.

Bon Appétit   Kopplin's Recommended as a "Top 10 Boutique Coffee Shop"
Bon AppÉtit Magazine
By Andrew Knowlton | January, 2010

Great coffee starts with great expertly roasted beans. The Twin Cities’ finest coffee shop sources from Terroir, a first-rate roaster. The pastries—including cinnamon buns and pecan shortbread—come from artisanal bakery Rustica.

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Eat Shop Twin Cities   Kopplin's Featured in Eat.Shop Twin Cities

There are three things that are top of my list after I have my baby: take a scalding hot bath, eat a plate of raw fish and drink cup after cup of Kopplin's coffee. Andrew has a reputation in the Twin Cities for making the best cuppa joe in town—I could barely contain myself from indulging there while watching happy caffeinites start their day right. If coffee doesn't rock your boat, the tea selection there is just as carefully curated—though I will say to you tea people, I think you are missing out. Kopplin's might have you switching teams, if you give it a chance.
City Pages Best Coffee Shop and Barista   Kopplin's Voted Best Coffee Shop & Best Barista
City Pages

Everyone loves the story of David versus Goliath. People love to see the little guy win. It's the reason we root for underdogs, watch Hoosiers, and support small businesses run by our neighbors. Kopplin's Coffee is such a business. This tiny cafe, nestled in a quiet section of St. Paul, can knock the portafilters off any coffee shop in Minneapolis. The baristas here can explain the cupping notes of an Ethiopian Bonko Sidamo and pour a latte Rosetta with enough fronds to provide shade. It was once thought that coffee reached its peak with the influx of the Starbucks mermaid, but then folks like Andrew Kopplin came along and pushed the game further. Enjoy a cup brewed in his $11,000 Clover coffeemaker and watch as a ristretto shot pours out a naked portafilter. Everything about this place is quality, and its customers quickly become converts. It's a reason to love your morning, and a reason to respect the underdog who is making his coffee the very best.
City Pages Best Barista   Mariah Patzner of Kopplin's Voted Best Barista
City Pages


A barista can change your day. Be it with a simple smile or by remembering your favorite drink, they help get your morning started. But a barista like Mariah Patzner at Kopplin's coffee in St. Paul can change your life. For reals. One sip will make you a believer. She honed her craft in the hills of Eugene, Oregon, at a small roaster called Wandering Goat. There she went through a barista boot camp of sorts, spending days learning how to mete out 20 grams of espresso from a burr grinder, tap the grinds with 20 to 30 pounds of pressure, and perfect a ristretto pull by watching, smelling, and timing the water moving through a naked portafilter. If you have no idea what that means, don't worry. Patzner would just as soon talk about her other love, one more familiar to St. Paul natives: books. As for her own craft, one simple sip of espresso made with her care, attention, dexterity, and love will change the way you experience coffee. As a result, Mariah Patzner will change your life.

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