ELGIN, Minn. – Dan Van Eijl is something of a jazz evangelist.
The longtime Twin Cities DJ and musician can tell you how Lee Morgan sounded like he was mad the day he played on "Locomotion," the B-side track of John Coltrane's major album "Blue Train." Van Eijl will talk your ear off about the history of jazz, the emotions embedded in decades-old works, the progression of the genre and how it affects music today.
He's found the perfect place to do that — inside a century-old bank building here that he's converted into a coffee shop.
Van Eijl, 51, opened the Jazz Shepherd at the end of November, named after the YouTube account where he discusses jazz. The 4,000-square-foot building at 115 Main St. E is the culmination of more than three decades in music and over 14,000 vinyl records.
"Part of my endgame was, what do I do with my records when I'm done DJing?" Van Eijl said. "It's too cool a collection just to hoard to myself, so I want to have a coffee shop/cafe, and share my records with people still."
Van Eijl didn't initially plan on opening a cafe in Elgin — about a half-hour northeast of Rochester and an hour and a half from Minneapolis. Although he lived in Uptown in Minneapolis, he'd drive into town to work part-time at his brother Dave's custom print shop Texteijl, which previously inhabited the Jazz Shepherd space. When Dave Van Eijl decided to relocate his printing business to a building off County Road 42, he sold the building to Dan.
Dan and his wife, Cathy, moved from Uptown to Elgin in 2019, but the onset of COVID dashed his plans to open the Jazz Shepherd — which ultimately benefited the shop. Although his DJ business dried up, Van Eijl got to work moving his record collection, piecing together decor and securing financing from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and the city of Elgin's Economic Development Authority.
In the three months since opening its doors, the cafe has become a draw for music lovers throughout southeast Minnesota and has been embraced by the community of 1,000 residents. LGBTQ couples, jazz enthusiasts and seniors looking to hear some old tunes flock to the shop Van Eijl describes as "urban chic with a hint of shag."
The cafe has even turned a profit, in part because Van Eijl owns and lives in the mixed-use building.
"This place would do great if it was in Midway or Summit Avenue or Uptown, but my costs would probably be 10 times as much," he said.
The Jazz Shepherd offers selections from Peace Coffee in Minneapolis as well as turnovers, Danishes and a waffle bar on Saturdays. Many of Van Eijl's records adorn the walls, ready to be used on a twin turntable set-up he uses to entertain customers and host private events.
He recently secured a liquor license and plans to offer wine and dinner pairings in the future, which he hopes turns the Jazz Shepherd into a destination for people who want to make a daytrip to see Bluff Country and swing by for coffee and a musical experience.
"I love talking about music and sharing music with people," he said. "I'm pleasantly surprised by the number of people coming out of the woodwork thrilled about a place like this being here."