Feeling like an emperor at Empire Coffee

John Shirley, Jr.

I’ve lived in Duluth since 2006, but I’m still discovering new things. I guess you can say the Twin-Ports is like an onion with an infinite number of layers. I just discovered Empire Coffee the other day. Even though the barista assured me it has been here about five years and I have driven by it a hundred times, it now exists in my individual consciousness.

I used to always go to Red Mug when I was in Superior or drove over to meet my “Superior” friend for a “work party.” I was sad when they left and I’m glad, they are still providing a nice outside coffee hang out when it is outside coffee drinking weather. But it is still winter, and I needed a way to get out of the house and do some computer work somewhere other than home.

I stepped outside. With my eyes hurting from the sun, I felt like a mole coming out of his hole, Count Dracula or maybe even Count Chocula. It was bright outside and not too cold. I drove down the Garfield bypass, crossed the bay, and parked behind my newest hideout and base of operations.

First let’s talk about parking. Don’t let the meters on Tower Avenue scare you. There is free parking around the side or behind this magnificent old brownstone, similar to the great building Red Mug was in. You might sometimes have to walk slightly further away from Tower Avenue if it is very busy. Since I often have my dog along for the ride, I like to have easy and quick access to my vehicle to check up on him or step out to give him a quick walk around the neighborhood.

Empire Coffee is in one of those big old spaces they don’t seem to make anymore. It has a very high ceiling with one of those old giant ventilation pipes you see at places like Clyde Iron Works. There is a baby grand piano which I might try playing sometime when there aren’t so many people around. I guess I better practice one of my old songs so I can play it well enough to not be embarrassed too much.

At 1204 Tower Avenue, this is the official gallery for Joe Polecheck Photography and his work decorates and is for sale on the walls. There are also lots of games and a bookshelf full of books by a local author Even R. Meyer for you to check out while you sit. I only had time to read the first page of one of the books to make a quick evaluation for this article. It appears to be written well and has a compelling concept for a story. Come down and check it out.

As I sat, there were many people in there, but it didn’t feel crowded. Lots of people from various walks of life were there and seemed happy and relaxed. People were chatting with friends and/or conducting business. The two next to me were working on some kind of spreadsheet for whatever kind of job they probably used to have to get dressed up for and drive someplace to do.

As for the coffee, it is good. I went in feeling kind of down, but after that first gulp of their brew I felt like an emperor at Empire coffee, though it still has all the trappings of the Old Republic. The burst of dopamine or whatever got me feeling alright, kind of energetic but relaxed at the same time.

I just noticed a sign saying Joe Polecheck the three-time winner of “Best Photographer” from your favorite publication The Reader. I am glad when people appreciate the writing we do in the Twin-Ports.