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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

Free Range Exchange: A new local coffee shop here to stay

Trinity Rietmann
Baristas at work. Photo taken by Trinity Reitmann.

Three months ago, Free Range Exchange opened its doors to the La Crosse community. With one location in Hokah, Minnesota, and now its second location in La Crosse, Free Range Exchange is proving itself to be a growing business in the local area. According to Benjamin Horn the owner and operator of Free Range Exchange, business in La Crosse has been thriving since its opening. 

“It’s been well received,” said Horn. “We’ve got regulars since day one, and we’ve got new faces every day.”

Brooke Lieu, who was visiting from Madison, had a great first impression of the space. “It’s super cute. I like how they have the pastries right up front. The menu is clear. They have some cute little items to shop for,” she said. “When I am traveling here, this is probably going to be my new favorite spot.”

Free Range Exchange has a lot to offer. The drink menu lists everything from coffee to smoothies. There are soups, sandwiches and salads offered as a sit-down meal or as a quick grab-and-go option. Baked goods are freshly made in-house, and shelves of artisan products feature anything from honey to soaps to t-shirts. 

Everything sold at Free Range Exchange is locally sourced, which is a core part of the mission.

“The motto is local love,” said Horn. “Connecting the dots to local suppliers. That’s what sets us apart, our true local commitment and using local sources. Everything feels better. It tastes better. I’m proud to serve that to the community.”

He also spoke about how transparent Free Range Exchange is about their local sources. 

“I have a story behind all the products… whether it’s a high school buddy, a college friend, a former coworker, a friend of a friend or a cousin. It’s those stories that make those products taste better, and it feels better knowing that you’re supporting true small, local businesses.”

For example, the honey supplier is Horn’s old high school friend and former college roommate. They fell out of touch for years but reconnected because of the new business. 

“Almost 20 years later I needed some local honey, and I’m like ‘Hey, I know a guy!’” said Horn.

Another part of Free Range Exchange’s mission is protecting the environment. “Sustainability. That’s important to me as an environmentalist. We do our part,” Horn said. Valuing sustainability and prioritizing the environment has shaped Free Range Exchange from the beginning.

“The coffee cups are eco-friendly. They’re compostable. Even the silverware for takeout. The packaging. Everything is recyclable. It does cost more, but it feels better knowing where it’s coming from and where it’s going,” said Horn. 

Free Range Exchange composts all coffee grounds and vegetable scraps to minimize the trash output of the business. 

Fruit is organically grown, and all of the juices used for smoothies are organic, too. 

“We feature smoothies, we use real fruit, we use organic fruit, we use organic juice, we use a family farm for the yogurt,” said Horn. “We have extras that you can enhance your smoothie with… our own Free Range supplement line. That’s something we’re proud to feature, and we just started doing that.”

The supplement line is not the only new thing at Free Range Exchange. The shop just expanded its hours, as well. Free Range Exchange will now be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with Sunday hours coming soon. 

The store is a fun place to be according to Mac Krause, who is a barista there. “I like the people. The people are very nice. And the environment. If it’s slow or if it’s busy, there’s always a lot to do, and it’s fun,” she said.

Horn also talked about the atmosphere of Free Range Exchange. “It’s a good place to be. The atmosphere is energetic. We’re here to hang out, customers are friends and employees are friends,” he said. 

While Free Range Exchange focuses on locally sourced goods and sustainability, at its core, the shop is about the people.

“Day to day, it’s the people,” Horn said. “I love the community. I love the network. Seeing the same friendly faces over and over and meeting new people. It’s what I enjoy the most.”


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About the Contributor
Trinity Rietmann, Photojournalist
  • Year at UWL: Junior
  • PGPs: she/her/hers
  • Hometown: Baraboo
  • Major: Art Education
  • Minor: Photography and Recreation Management
  • Other Campus Involvement: Women's Rugby Team
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Become an art teacher
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Hiking at the Bluffs
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  • D

    Deborah L WyattOct 30, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    WHERE is this??

  • D

    Deb DornackOct 28, 2023 at 3:31 pm

    Love the food, the people and atmosphere ❤️