Eclectic, not pretentious.
That’s how Goodbye Blue Monday new owner Chloe Kierner describes the iconic downtown coffeehouse she purchased in September from longtime owners Dan Riggins and Catherine Dominguez.
Not much has changed inside or outside the narrow, elongated shop that sports a giant white coffee cup on the blue sign stretching across the top facade of the Division Street store.
Open seven days a week, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Goodbye Blue Monday is a veritable Northfield institution. Customers old and new appreciate a place where time has, for the most part, stood still.
A place for fellowship or solitude; a place to relax; a place to study; a place to work; a place to just be, whether for 20 minutes or two hours.
Wedged between Downtown Bicycles to the south and the now-closed Tandem Bagel shop to the north, Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse offers customers Fair Trade, Organic and Shade Grown Coffees; brewed coffees, flavored coffees, premium teas; lattes; cappuccinos; smoothies; mochas; iced coffees and teas; hot chocolates, muffins, scones and croissants.
“Coffee is a joy product,” said Kierner with a wide grin. “We see a lot of smiles and hear a lot of laughter here.”
A downtown icon
“The old school 1990s vibe has not changed,” she said. “The low key, down to earth vibe is still here. Everything is just cleaner.”
Besides the empty walls of the public restroom — the cassette tape lined walls of the one public restroom were returned to Rigging — the familiar, comfortable, if battered, family room furniture from the late 20th century decor is all there. From the hand painted wall murals to the mismatched lampshades, chairs, tables and couches. The mismatch of original art fills the walls.
The old chalkboards with daily specials written with rainbow colored chalk still hang in the small kitchen area. Long gone are the ash trays that sat on every table, said Kiener.
Regular customer Randy Moore said he”s been coming here every day for the last four or five years. While other people use the coffeeshop to meet their friends, family and colleagues, Moore said he likes to sip his coffee while reading,
“I read about two novels a week sitting right over there,” he said pointing to the low-slung coach. Asked if the noise level ever bothers him, he shook his head and pointed to the ear plugs he wears in both ears.
Many customers were unaware the coffeehouse switched owners, mainly because Kierner has been such a familiar fixture for years. Her first job was as a barista there 23 years ago, long after she had graduated from Northfield High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an African American Studies major.
“Blue Monday has a nice urban vibe that you find in cities,” she said.
As someone who has lived in bigger cities like Madison, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, where she alternated work as a visual merchandiser or a wine and coffeehouse manager, Kierner said she appreciates the broad demographic of customers who walk inside the 319 Division Street South shop. Everyone from high school and college students to a local women’s walking group to a clutch of local attorneys.
“I never thought I’d end up here,” said Kierner. “I’m not really a small town girl. I have an urban soul.”
Now, the single mom to a six year old son said she can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“I just love customer service,” said Kierner. “Seeing people feeds my extraverted side.”
Leota Goodney, one of the building’s three owners, said she’s pleased with how Kierner is managing the business. “She’s pleasant and friendly,” said Goodney about Kierner. “Chloe has been doing an excellent job keeping the sidewalks scooped and de-iced.”
“I love managing people,” said Kierner. “I also like hiring people with a range of ages, from high school to midlife. I especially like hiring people who are doing this work to support themselves. The ones who need this job to make a living.”
One aspect of the business that won’t change is the name, derived from author Kurt Vonnegut ‘s 1973 novel, “Breakfast of Champions.”
“I like the inclusivity of the place,” she said. “It’s comfortable.”