Stienka brings a whole latte love to Coco Moon Coffee – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Dawn Stienka knew that when she was 15, she wanted to own a coffee shop one day.

Specifically, Coco Moon in downtown Brainerd.

Today, this dream is a reality.

“It’s amazing,” she said on Thursday, March 10, as she sat in a sunny booth at the cafe.

The new year brought a new adventure for Stienka, who took over Coco Moon from former owner Lorie Brown on January 1 and loved every minute of it. After all, not everyone can say that he has achieved his dreams.

“There are only a limited number of businesses in the area, and this is the one I fell in love with,” she said. “Connection, community, people in general – making people happy with something as simple as drinks is pretty rare.”

Stienka has worked at Coco Moon on and off for the past 15 years, but she’s been in the cafe for much longer. “My dad worked all my life as a manual laborer, so that’s how I would start my days making his coffee,” she says.

Now Stienka brings home some Coco Moon coffee for her dad and shares interesting facts about the different brews.

“So now he’s drinking light roast coffee, which has more caffeine, and the job is done,” she said.

Stienka is clearly getting the job done as well, as business continues to grow since she took the reins. A combination of bouncing back on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, extended hours a few days a week, and live music attracts new customers and enhances the Coco Moon experience.

“Bringing artists back here was my number one goal. Just to have this live music here, to bring people in,” Stienka said, noting that the store is now open until 6 p.m. three nights a week, and that she plans to extend those hours even further once the summer comes. come.

Music was such a big factor for Stienka because she remembers listening to bluegrass in Coco Moon when she was 18, and it stuck with her, becoming one of her favorite genres of music.

“We are so talented in the Brainerd Lakes area,” she said. “…And we got incessant calls about people playing live music here. It was truly a blessing.

Stienka is already taking artist reservations for May. And to spread the word, she’s working to increase the cafe’s social media presence on Facebook so customers can always know what kind of beers are fresh each day and when they might find live entertainment.

Despite all the new stuff, regulars who have remained loyal to the cafe and still come day after day, year after year, can rest assured that the heart of the business remains the same.

Coco Moon Coffee Bar in downtown Brainerd offers various flavoring additives and equipment for a wide variety of drink options.

Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

The solid base, built over the past 28 years by first owner Rod Opp and then Brown, has weathered its fair share of storms, is still in good working order and is something Stienka would never want to change.

“The fact that a small business can pull through, like the crash of 2008, and now with everything that’s going on – I mean, wars are constant, gas prices are constantly going up. And being able to feel at home in a cafe, be yourself, have a place to go and just say hello. We can make or break people’s days,” she said.

Specialty lattes, one-of-a-kind coffee creations, and a slew of sweets and pastries from Fancy Pants Chocolates just down the street go a long way to making these days great for anyone in need of a quick pick-me-up. Turtle, mongoose, cinnamon roll, bullwinkle and car bomb are some of the most popular drinks, with flavors like chocolate, caramel, banana, Irish cream, toffee, walnut pecan with butter, brown sugar and hazelnut.

There’s also coco puff, a milk chocolate, white chocolate, hazelnut and espresso drink that Stienka created herself during one of her stints as a barista and has was surprised to see it stay on the menu.

“It really gave me a sense of pride because I did this at 5:30 in the morning like 12 years ago, so it was really exciting,” she said.

But the supplies don’t last long. Stienka cannot keep the pastry case full and constantly runs out of various coffee infusions.

But it’s a good problem to have because it means business is booming and the community is supportive.

“All the downtown businesses come here, and that’s probably what makes me most proud — being able to help them achieve their dreams,” Stienka said, gushing about the amount of energy there is at the downtown Brainerd right now and how happy she is. it is to be part of it.

“There’s so much pride and joy and fulfillment,” she said.

Two people shake hands and exchange a certificate
Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux presents Dawn Stienka, owner of Coco Moon Cafe, with the February Community Member of the Month award during a town council meeting Monday, March 7, 2022.

Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

And those feelings aren’t lost on the rest of the city either, as evidenced by Stienka’s recent recognition as Brainerd Community Member of the Month for February. The Mayor and City Council honor came to her a little late, due to recent snowfall, but she finally accepted her certificate on Monday, March 7.

“The most important thing about this award and why we selected you, Dawn, is because it’s about dedication to our downtown,” the mayor told her. Dave Badeaux last week. “And it’s about stepping in and looking at a business and saying, ‘I think I’d like to do that. And one of the most important things that I think we as a city could help do for our downtown is to really start focusing on succession planning and working with our businesses so that , as business owners move on, as people get ready to start the new parts of their lives…we as a city should keep an eye out and try to help as much as we can for the next people to step in and to make sure we have a plan.

Stienka is one of those people who has a plan.

In addition to expanded hours and periodic music, she has local artists ready to paint the last of the pictures that don’t yet have designs on them, and finally she’s considering a showcase for high school student artists.

“We’ve been on the same corner for 28 years,” she said, “and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the next 20 years of operation will bring.”

Coco Moon in downtown Brainerd gained new ownership in early 2022 and is expanding its hours and offerings after 28 years of operation.

Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

THERESA BOURKE can be reached at

[email protected]

or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at


Laura J. Boyer