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Coffee shop along Second Street has new owner

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The newest owner of the coffee shop at 202 E. Second St. is marketing to people of all ages, and so far it's working.

"We're trying to cater to all ages and really take care of our customers," Shirley Brantner said.

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Brantner bought the business in November. She had owned a bakery before, but had to close it down because of her health at the time. With her health problems resolved, she was ready to get back to work, and she loved the downtown location and liked that she could still make baked goods.

"I enjoyed the baking aspect of it and the cooking," she said.

She renamed the place Benny's Grill and Coffee Shop after her grandson, a third-grader at Pinecrest Elementary School. She and her employees are trying to get a picture of Ben in a baker's hat with a wisk to use as their logo, but he hasn't given them quite the shot they're hoping for, Brantner and an employee, Shawn Campbell, said.

There have been a few changes since Brantner took over. Besides cleaning and painting, Benny's got a new grill in the kitchen. The coffee shop only had a Panini grill before, so now Benny's can offer eggs and hash browns as well as the sandwiches, and breakfast goes all day.

All the bakery items are homemade, as are the soups and desserts. The brownies are a special favorite for a few customers, and one customer even drove an hour to get them from Benny's, Brantner and Campbell said.

Behind the narrow storefront, Benny's has a deep interior with plenty of space for people to sit. There are a few regular clubs and social groups that come to simply spend time with one another, and Brantner has no problem with that, since she has the space.

"We have a lot of area for clubs," she said.

A few nights a month, high school bands come to play at the shop. They'll set up their drum kits in the back and play for whoever wants to listen, and that's attracting more of the younger crowd.

"It's fun for kids down here now," Campbell said.

They'd like to see more high school students hang out there.

"Now we're just working on getting the high school kids here," Campbell said.

Benny's is usually open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but that's subject to change on a daily basis. When bands play they stay open until 10 p.m., and Brantner said they're lucky to leave by 6 p.m. Sundays. It just depends on the customers.

"If there's people here, we stay open," Brantner said.

Brantner expects the summertime will be a good time for her coffee shop and grill.

"We're looking forward to the car shows," she said.

She hopes to have a selection of foods ready for people to order that can be eaten while walking.

The health-conscious customer can be assured that the food at Benny's is fresh and free of chemicals.

"There are no MSGs, none of that stuff," Brantner said.

All in all, Brantner wants to keep Benny's family oriented and friendly, and that's what her regular customers seem to like, she said.

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Katrina Styx
Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
(651) 319-4501
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