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Continued: After 16 years, Hopkins' Depot Coffee House remains a mainstay for young people

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT  , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 4, 2014 - 12:53 PM

Sigmundik’s handiwork can be found all over the shop, which is characterized by repurposed furniture, eclectic seating areas, railroad signs and lots of artwork. He’s painted murals on the exterior of a shed and on the walls of the Depot’s restrooms. He has also exhibited his original artwork inside the Depot.

He said the board experience has been invaluable to him as an entrepreneur. He plans to open a nonprofit bike shop in the next year. It was Duepner, an avid cyclist, who got him into biking in the first place, he said.

Sigmundik is feeling confident about beginning new ventures after he graduates from high school and credits the Depot for much of that. “I was respected as a kid when I first got involved,” he said. “It helped me to develop a self.”

Ryan Hansen, a Wayzata High School senior and the board’s vice chair, echoed that. He helps organize film screenings at the Depot and is president of the Wayzata film club at his school.

In his college application essays, Hansen, who wants to study architecture, wrote about the Depot and his part in it. “It’s a nexus for people to come in and share ideas and have fun,” he said, adding that he’s most productive when he’s there.

Some of his friends come and play music at the Depot and other friends will hang out. “It truly does feel like our own place,” he said.

‘A good environment’

A new board member, Hopkins Junior High ninth-grader Maria Vargas, said the Depot has already drawn her out.

Early on, she was shy about meeting new people. Now, she doesn’t mind talking to whoever comes in the door. “It’s a good environment to just be who you are,” she said.

Also at the Depot, she feels comfortable dressing however she likes. “I have a quirky style and I’m not afraid to show it.”

A.J. Evers, 20, a local rapper who performed a few original songs at the open mic last Tuesday, said the Depot has been a big part of his growth as an artist.

He was “super nervous” the first time stepped onstage four years ago. “It was the biggest thing for me when I was 16, to say I’ve rapped live,” said Evers.

Although his debut wasn’t perfect, he says, it gave him the courage to continue to share his songs. Since then, he’s performed in venues all over the place, he said.

A history of the place

The idea for the Depot came out of a forum on chemical health back in the 1990s, says Fran Hesch, a former Hopkins City Council member who helped found the coffee shop. Students had the idea to transform the building, which was then a county storage space, into a youth-oriented hub, with a coffee shop as the anchor business.

The old depot was totally renovated in a four-year community effort, with volunteer labor and donations.

The place had high-minded ideals from the start. Students wanted to create a place where everyone would be welcome, with no cliques; where kids could hang out in a safe environment, away from the pressures to do drugs or drink, Hesch said.

“The idea was, people would come in for the coffee, but stay for the community,” she said.

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