Toasting 20 Years!

To toast our 20 trips around the sun, we’re throwing our biggest birthday party to date! Join us for #BirchwoodBASH, an old-school, all-ages, family friendly block party for our neighbors, friends, and entire community on Sunday, September 13th!

In truth, we could be throwing a 90th birthday party, given that the Birchwood name has been a part of the Seward neighborhood since 1926! It all started with Alfred and Mary Bursch (pictured below left), founders of the Birchwood Dairy, the original occupants of our building.

Birchwood Dairy

Where bungalows and apartment buildings now fill up our city blocks, cattle pastures and farm fields once spread throughout our corner of South Minneapolis. Farmers made weekly trips to the Birchwood Dairy, delivering fresh milk to be bottled and churned into butter, then distributed back out again to neighbors in spanky white milk trucks by milkmen in spanky white uniforms. In the 1940’s, Cy and Del Bursch converted the dairy into a neighborhood grocery, offering food staples, penny candy, and community news, making it the neighborhood’s favorite gathering place and after-school hangout.

It was fitting then, when Cy and Del handed the Birchwood Store—and the Birchwood name!—over to us in 1995 and we became the Birchwood Cafe. Carrying forward the traditions of freshness and community, the Birchwood Cafe continued to be a friendly place to find good food and good people, and now folks drive from miles around to feel right at home. So as we prepare to celebrate the cafe’s 20 year-mark, we’re really celebrating this place, our foundation—one that remains firmly rooted to its neighborhood legacy.

With roots this deep, I often wonder if the Birchwood sits atop some especially fertile ground (or magic well that unicorns drink from?!), given how blessed we’ve been in our 20 years here. Especially these past two years—as we took the leap to remodel our cafe with the help of our friends, neighbors, and the 980 Kickstarter backers who supported our expansion—we saw the true power of community in action. It’s this community that’s been our backbone since 1995. We didn’t set out with some grand plan. We’ve evolved organically (pun intended!) and in response to the ever-growing demand for healthy, local, and sustainable food.

Original Birchwood Cafe

When we opened as a small, neighborhood coffee shop in 1995, we aimed to create a warm, family friendly and welcoming atmosphere, with high quality food, great local art on the walls, and the friendly knowledgeable service previously only found in fine dining establishments. Since then, our community of guests, fans, colleagues, and farmers keeps growing, year after year. When chef Marshall Paulsen arrived in 2008, we had a lucky 13 years of experience under our collective belts and were poised to take our operation to the next level. Marshall’s creativity and skill in the kitchen has largely shaped the menu we offer today, including the all-day, everyday favorite: Savory Waffle! All, it seems, was leading up to that community-funded remodel and expansion in 2014, when the Birchwood Cafe we know and love today was re-born.

Today, I’m filled with gratitude as I shepherd this amazing legacy, staying true to our values, and sourcing our food locally, organically, and sustainably; by running a fair, equitable, and supportive work environment; and by engaging our fellow citizens in work that extends far beyond our cafe walls, transforming our food system for the better—one Savory Waffle at a time! Our mission compels us to be responsive to the larger movements around us, speaking out on issues when they matter to us and to our community. It’s an ongoing endeavor, AND we’ve seen great strides in the past 20 years. All the things we’ve talked about for decades—the importance of knowing where your food comes from, dismantling corporate control of our food system, teaching kids about real food, butterflies and bees, GMOs and pesticides, climate change, and that EVERYONE has a right to fresh, healthy food—are finally finding a place in the national dialogue as we redefine what it means for ALL OF US to “eat healthy” in a way that nourishes us soul-cially/socially and physically.

That’s A LOT to celebrate and that’s why we’re throwing #BirchwoodBASH! On September 13th, we’ll be open for Brunch from 8am–2pm, then the celebration officially starts at 11am with Gorilla Yogis and Big River Yoga in the street, followed from 2pm to 7pm by outdoor live music on the 89.3 The Current & Electric Fetus stage, plus local food & drinks from us (of course!), Chef Shack, Café Racer, Izzy’s Ice Cream, Peace Coffee, Tap Mpls, Sweetland Orchard, and Surly Brewing Co. Kids of all ages will enjoy Open Eye Figure Theatre puppet shows, face-painting, ArtiCulture activities, Trivia Mafia, and a bee hive demonstration by The Beez Kneez. You can also check out Midwest Pantry’s Local Food Poster Show inside the cafe, along with cafe merchandise and housemade goodies for sale. We can’t wait to be #Toasting20 with you at #BirchwoodBASH!

~ Tracy & the Birchwood Cafe crew