Saying goodbye to local La Crosse coffee shop Cool Beans


Image submitted by Laurie Miller.

Jenasea Hameister, General Assignment Reporter

On April 22, Cool Beans coffee shop located at 1221 La Crosse St. served the La Crosse community for the last time. The coffee shop opened in Dec. 2016 and since then has impacted the lives of many students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and community members.

The Racquet Press interviewed Laurie Miller who owns Cool Beans with her husband, Steve Miller. Opening the shop was originally the idea of one of their friends. Miller said she and her husband began as financial partners with Cool Beans, but since 2016 their roles have shifted. Now, they manage and operate the coffee shop.

“The relationships with our baristas and the relationships with the customers have definitely been the best part,” said Miller.

As a professor of economics, Miller incorporates her role as a business owner into the classroom. “I often times use Cool Beans in examples in class,” she said. Miller started teaching at UWL in the fall of 2000. She continued,  “It was wonderful to own a business and bring that back into the classroom.”

“When the shop initially opened, my husband and our business partner did all of the renovations on the building because it was not in this shape when we got it,” said Miller. Before Cool Beans, the location sold bagels. Miller said, “Many people remember[ed] it as a bagel shop.”

Miller said the most challenging part of owning Cool Beans was the constant changes. She said, “There were struggles in the beginning just in terms of opening a new business and our business partner was a friend of ours. Many people say not to go into business with friends, and that is a true statement.”

When COVID-19 hit, the business had to do a lot of pivoting and the shop closed for five weeks in the spring of 2020, Miller explained. She said, “Then when we reopened it was, ‘Do we allow people to sit inside, do we not allow people to sit inside?’ When the students came back in the fall it was, ‘How many students should we let inside?’ So it’s just kind of been constant things that we ran into.”

 “The biggest challenge is you never feel ahead of the game, you’re just always kind of reacting to those things that come in front of you suddenly,” said Miller

There were many reasons for closing Cool Beans. “The road construction was the biggest thing,” Miller said.“During the summer when the road was torn up, we expected to have a decline in business.” When the road reopened Miller compared daily sales. She said, “I went back and tracked sales from the previous year, everyday sales had been lower.”

“Coffee shops are about convenience and about habits. Over the summer people found other coffee shops to be more convenient and they formed different habits. And I get that,” said Miller.

The other challenge the coffee shop experienced was a change in the market. “When we opened Cool Beans in 2016, we became a part of what I considered a rich culture of locally owned coffee shops,” Miller said. “In the last couple of years, the national chains have just gotten much more aggressive at moving into that market.”

The third challenge has been inflation. Miller said, “The cost of our inputs have not plateaued. I think if we thought it was going to plateau at some point we would just raise our prices and adjust to that, but it doesn’t seem to be doing that.”

Despite the challenges Cool Beans has experienced, Miller said the community support has been overwhelming. After posting on Instagram and Facebook about the closing Miller expected interest to decline. “We expected that we would just kind of fade off,” she said “But the number of people that have reached out to us personally, or the people who have commented on social media has just been overwhelming,”

Miller expressed how the support from the community has been incredibly touching. She said, “It’s bittersweet that you’re letting go of something, but at the same time it’s just been really amazing; the support.”

Regarding the arrival of the April 22 closing Miller said, “I think both my husband and I are looking forward to the next chapter.” She continued, “When you own a business, it’s hard to take a vacation. We’re just looking forward to having more time to spend with family and friends.”

Miller said she wants to thank students for their support over the past six years. “Students have been our bread and butter since we opened, and we appreciate very much the time that they have spent here.”

Lauren Cordy, a barista at Cool Beans since November 2021 said she found out about the closing around two weeks ago. “I wouldn’t say that I saw it coming, but I knew that they had some financial issues,” said Cordy. “But I was really sad. I knew that I would miss seeing the same people every day. I said goodbye to a lot of regulars today [April 20].”

Cordy said she applied because she always wanted to be a barista. “I thought it looked really fun and I had been here a few times and I just really like our coffee here.” She added, “It doesn’t take long to fall in love with this place.”

Cordy explained there are many good parts about working at Cool Beans. “The best part is my co-workers, my bosses, and the customers, especially the regulars,” she said.

While preparing for the close, Cordy said that she already has work plans lined up unlike some of her other co-workers. “I know a lot of our other baristas are kind of scrambling to find other positions,” She said. “Maybe some other coffee shops in La Crosse will be lucky enough to have some retired Cool Beans baristas.”

“I just want to say thank you to everyone who have been coming here for so long, to the regulars, and the students who have just been coming here every day and supported us. I really appreciate it and I know everyone really does,” said Cordy.

Multiple UWL students gave the Racquet Press their comments on Cool Beans Closing.

Sophie Alverado, a junior at UWL said, “Cool Beans has been one of my favorite places in La Crosse ever since I toured here the summer before my senior year.” She continued, “I’ve made so many great memories there with friends over the years, and seeing it close has me devastated. It’s so upsetting to see an amazing local business close when it’s had such an impact on my educational career.”

Amber Johnson, a senior at UWL said, “I am a senior on the UWL women’s track and field team, and when I came here as a freshman one of the upperclassmen on my team introduced me to Cool Beans and I loved it! My dorm was super close to it so I would walk there all the time. Whenever my parents would visit we would go there together which I thought was really special.”

Johnson continued, “I pride myself on the fact that I have filled up a lunch card every semester since I have been in La Crosse. I love the aesthetic of the place too, I am always so productive and the baristas are so nice. I’m hoping they auction off the artwork or sell it because I love it so much!”

Sophie Miller, another junior at UWL said, “I first heard about Cool Beans closing from a couple of friends. I couldn’t believe it, so I messaged my friend who is a barista there and they confirmed that April 22 was going to be the last day. I was honestly shocked. Every single person I know loves and frequently goes to Cool Beans.”

Miller continued, “It’s been my favorite coffee shop in La Crosse since my freshman year 3 years ago. It’s really disappointing to see my favorite place shutting down permanently but I understand their decision. I wish the owners and baristas all the best but am really sad to see Cool Beans go.”