Pair a sip with your next story with these book and beer pairings from Cream & Amber.
It’s not every day that you wander into a store that offers hot coffee, cold beer, and a cozy chair where you can cuddle up with a good book—unless you’re in Hopkins. Cream & Amber, the latest shop to hit Main Street, has all those bases covered. But before the blue pendant lights above the bar ever came on, it was just a tiny idea in the heads of owners Katie Terhune and Kacey Hruby Wyttenhove. One that just wouldn’t go away.
“At the end of college it started taking shape,” says Hruby Wyttenhove. Both she and Terhune graduated in 2011 from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. “A place we could go drink beer that was more relaxed than a bar, and where we didn’t have to worry about noise. At that point it was just a dream.” A dream, but one that stuck with them as they developed their careers in different fields. “We’d joke about it,” explains Terhune. “We’d say, ‘I think it’s time to open Cream & Amber now.’”
Around 2015, the women took the first step in making the store a reality, agreeing to each stow away some money each month. A year later, they registered the business, and held a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in 2017. They left their full-time positions and started working at coffee shops, bakeries and food co-ops, and even pouring beer at the State Fair to get on-the-job experience. The store started limited online sales in 2018 and officially opened doors to customers earlier this year.
That waiting period, going from the idea, to finding a location in Hopkins, to actually opening for business, has been the hardest part, says Hruby Wyttenhove. “I see depictions of small-business ownership on TV and it’s not like that at all,” she explains. “It’s day after day doing these nitty-gritty things and things you didn’t see coming— the curveballs.”
But the hard work is worth it, both women note. “The most rewarding thing is being able to take ownership of something that’s not just for us, but for the people in the area,” says Terhune.
Hruby Wyttenhove agrees. “Seeing this place that is sprung from our imaginations and that we talked about… take shape and come together, seeing that final product is worth it,” she says.
Hruby Wyttenhove grew up in the Hopkins area, and when the pair looked for spaces, Main Street just made sense. Terhune likes the character of their standalone building and the short distance to the Twin Cities where both women live in Northeast, the brewery district of Minneapolis. Hruby Wyttenhove also notes the mix of new and longtime residents in Hopkins really feels like it has a sense of community, which is important to the store. She says, “We want anyone who walks through the doors to feel welcome—find a seat, grab a book to read and feel like they belong there.”
Cream & Amber offers both new and used books, ranging in genre and category. While including new and noteworthy titles, it also focuses on providing reads with Minnesota connections as well as local authors and publishers. “We’re small, so we’re specific and curated,” says Terhune. “But we can always order anything if a customer has a request.” The shop also offers a community room, reservable online, where book clubs or local groups can meet for free. It’s a unique feature that the women had always kept in mind, even back when the store was just a dream. “We hope to be a gathering space and a place where the community can come,” says Hruby Wyttenhove. “We weren’t always sure what shape it would take, but it was always in the plan.”
As for the beer selections, everything is local, featuring taps from the vast array of breweries that Minnesota has to offer. There are six rotating beer taps, featuring the categories of light, dark, hoppy, something different, beer of the moment, and something seasonal. Those looking for a caffeine buzz can also find a fix at the shop. Cream & Amber partners with Bootstrap Coffee Roasters out of St. Paul. “They are a really cool, small company, devoted to good quality coffee and good customer service,” says Terhune. The store serves drip coffee now, but plans to expand to espresso drinks in the future. Something to munch on with your coffee or beer? Cream & Amber has that, too, serving up a small selection of bites like paninis, salads, soups and a few baked goods.
Though they’ve just recently opened, Terhune and Hruby Wyttenhove already have new aspirations for the store. They’re interested in hosting more events centered around author readings and beer education, but are keeping all options open. “For the future, the sky’s the limit,” says Hruby Wyttenhove. “Well, not the sky. Our space is the limit,” she explains with a laugh. Ideally, the women would like to see Cream & Amber turn into a destination, not only in the Hopkins community, but for the whole Twin Cities metro as well. As their business grows, they hope to attract more well-known authors, hold larger events, and expand their space.
For those interested in the story behind the shop’s name, it’s a bit of a deep cut. It was inspired by a description of beer used in an eight-line poem, widely attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, called Lines on Ale, which some speculate Poe wrote to settle a bar tab. The composition evokes the feeling of sitting in a comfortable chair and letting your mind drift while enjoying a pint or a book. More than just a namesake, this is truly the atmosphere Cream & Amber has created for its patrons. (Just don’t try to pay with a poem.)