In my first post, I wrote about the merits of Seth’s Coffee and Seth’s Drive Thru, best for when you need coffee in five minutes or less, or if you have a car and feel like venturing off campus.
For those of us who don’t have a car and often search for an excuse to get off campus, Brewed Awakenings is a great and very walkable alternative. It’s quiet, it’s got a great vegan menu, and their outdoor patio is pet-friendly! “It’s more than just dogs and cats,” says the owner, Nora Asplund, “we’ve had a parrot before too!” She, like all the staff at Brewed Awakenings, is always happy when people utilize the outdoor patio with their furry (or feathery) friends.
I haven’t had the delight of seeing the parrot on the back patio, but it’s a welcome sight to see dogs (and the occasional cat) sunning themselves while their owners enjoy a delicious cup of Brewed Awakenings coffee. It’s a sight that warms the heart of every pet-starved college kid.
Asplund’s parents, Regina and Ray Asplund, opened Brewed Awakenings in 2003. Family owned and operated, Nora and her siblings, Veronika and Eric, often helped their parents behind the counter. In 2010, Aspen Coffee & Tea took over the space from the Asplunds, and after a five year hiatus, Brewed Awakenings reopened in 2015 with Nora as the new owner. Asplund’s boyfriend, Jeff Maroszek, who was also the previous owner of Aspen Coffee & Tea, still helps Asplund with the business side of the shop. “I can think up recipes,” says Asplund, laughing. “I needed some help with the business aspect.” Although she has no formal education in business management, Asplund’s father taught her as much as he could while she worked alongside her parents in the coffeeshop. “Learning how to budget accordingly, managing bills, that was the biggest challenge,” says Asplund. “Luckily, my dad showed me how to do it.” Even now, her parents still occasionally pop in to visit, and her sister still helps run the business.
“The best thing about Brewed is our vegan stuff, it’s made in-house,” says Asplund. “We try to be friendly to all diets.” Their menu, to be honest, is amazing. As someone with limited food options, Brewed Awakenings has a great selection of food that I can eat. Coconut milk? Got it. Gluten free stuff? Got it. Vegan? Got that too. Delicious wraps, salads, smoothies, and much more. It’s a huge relief to walk into a store and know they won’t look at me weird for asking if they have nondairy milk alternatives that also don’t include soy or almonds, and if their food could possibly be gluten free and vegan at the same time. I can order food like Sally Albright from When Harry Met Sally (yes, I’ll have the gluten free vegan apple pie, heated, but with the nondairy ice cream on the side) and it’s totally normal.
Complicated orders aside, the coffee itself is fantastic, due to the great beans. “We were with Big Water until it went out of business,” says Asplund. “We switched to Contrast Beans seven months ago, and we’re happy with how they’ve turned out.” The customers don’t seem to complain, as the typical crowd of YMCA and yoga moms, Lawrence kids and business people is steady and diverse. People come for the food, stay for a nice chat, and even get some work done. The shop is never too loud or distracting, and my favorite place to sit quietly and do homework is at one of the awesome window tables right at the front of the shop. It’s where the most natural light streams in, and you can people watch to your heart’s content.
Aside from the usual hustle and bustle, Brewed Awakenings also hosts special events, including the annual Soup Walk, Art on the Town, and Death by Chocolate. In addition, they do an Artist of the Month spotlight, where local artists can display and sell their work. A few years ago, one of the Appleton elementary schools had them showcase art made by 4th and 5th graders, so other people could come see and enjoy it. I remember thinking all the artwork was great, I loved seeing how creative all the kids were and the variety of colors and subjects in their work. I think everyone else enjoyed it just as much.
“I’m hopeful my kids will be willing to take on the business,” says Asplund. Her two young sons, aged ten and two, can sometimes be seen roaming the shop with their mother or aunt in tow. Asplund hopes they will be willing to follow in her footsteps when they grow up, taking over from her like she took over from her parents. In addition, Asplund says she’d like to expand to a larger store, with a larger menu and more space to accommodate their customers.
I hope she gets the space, if only for the menu expansion. What other delicious gluten free vegan nondairy food will Asplund come up with? And will she still have a patio that’s pet-friendly to pets of every species? I hope so. Like every other Lawrence student, Brewed Awakenings is a place I love to spend time at, whether it’s soaking up the afternoon light doing homework, chatting with friends, or people watching from the window, looking out on College Ave, sipping my delicious nondairy latte.
For more information about Brewed Awakenings, you can find them on Facebook!