The 'highly Instagramable interior of the new Black Coffee and Waffle Bar in Fargo. [Kilbourne Group]
When the owner of Black Coffee and Waffle Bar set out to find the right spot for his third location, he found there was just something about Fargo.
There were the conventional statistics of Fargo Brad Cimaglio found very attractive.
“Your population has grown like clockwork since 1960.” Fargo is among the country’s fastest growing cities, gaining more than 15% in population from 2010 to 2017. The local Metropolitan Council of Governmentsestimates the population of the metro to hit 330,500 by 2045, a 41% increase over the current population.
“Your per capita GDP is fantastic.” Fargo’s median household income is $60,009. The GDP (gross domestic product) per capita for the Fargo Moorhead metro was $58,068 in 2017.
“You’re one of the only cities in the country that was recession-proof back in 2008.” Livability named Fargo one of the seven most recession-proof cities in the country, citing Fargo’s “strong and educated workforce,” and its “under-the-radar cool factor the rest of the country is just now starting to discover.”
Then there was the way downtown Fargo cinched the deal.
“This area, in particular in downtown Fargo, is ripe for a renaissance, to steal the term from the Renaissance Zone,” says Brad Cimaglio. “The feedback I’ve gotten from locals has all been that this place is going through a revitalization and we wanted to be a part of that. Most of the conditions here make a lot of sense for us so we wanted to come here.”
A Growing Neighborhood
Cimaglio compares what he sees happening in downtown Fargo to what he’s witnessed over the last decade in the North Loop, the fastest growing neighborhood in Minneapolis.
The good thing about an area going through a revitalization is that it can only improve. Every city goes through its hills and valleys; Fargo is going up from here. You are making the right moves.
“I’m really attracted to the work the Kilbourne Group has been doing in downtown Fargo,” says Cimaglio. “I got to watch the evolution of the North Loop over a decade and see how it changed. I get those vibes here in what Fargo is trying to do, especially in that balance of reclaiming older properties and rehabbing them, but also building new construction in areas where it makes sense to do that.”
One difference between the neighborhoods that he’s quick to note: “The North Loop is nowhere near as walkable as Fargo. Fargo blows my mind. The North Loop is fragmented. There are streets that don’t form blocks. Here it’s laid out like a piece of graph paper.”
“We like urban areas,” Cimaglio continues. “The good thing about an area going through a revitalization is that it can only improve. Every city goes through its hills and valleys; Fargo is going up from here. You are making the right moves. We looked at several spots in Fargo and this was clearly the best. The Block 9 project was a big draw, specifically being able to bookend the new plaza.”
A Fortunate Accident
Cimaglio says most of his business has been a fortunate accident. He took over a coffee shop in 2010 which happened to serve waffles, amongst many other things. In 2013, he and business partners decided to streamline the menu – waffles only – and changed the brand to Black Coffee and Waffle Bar.
“We were a coffee shop that served food and thought we always would be,” Cimaglio says. “But today we are definitely a waffle restaurant that serves coffee.”
Known for its highly Instagrammable Twin Cities locations, the bar was high for the design of the Fargo store. “Design is a very democratic process,” says Cimaglio. “Kelly Bauer at wild | crg had the largest influence on design. Our goal was to blend our existing aesthetic with more of a North Dakota influence. A lot of the materials are elements Kelly sourced specifically to inject more North Dakota DNA into the shop.”
The wild | CRG team is thrilled with how the space turned out.
“The design is a response to balancing different aspects of the design narrative with a goal to deliver a product that exceeded the owner’s expectations,” says Bauer. “One of the more challenging tasks was identifying the essence of North Dakota in a unique way that meshed well with the Black Coffee and Waffle brand. North Dakota as a state that can be very utilitarian, mechanical, raw and stripped down. This idea took shape using stained dimensional lumber, plate steel, angle iron and exposing conventional bolt heads. The use of these materials is a pragmatic approach to the function of the restaurant, a need for durability and visibly integrating into the local environment.”
Bauer adds, “We also can’t wait to try the waffles!”
Something Totally Unique
The uniqueness of Fargo’s Black Coffee and Waffle Bar goes beyond the design.
“This store is going to be different than what we have in the Twin Cities,” says Cimaglio. “It’s a different experiment. We will be offering beer and wine, mimosas for brunch. We are hoping, especially with the evening crowd, to offer a place where you can stretch your legs a little bit, relax, study, be with people, go on dates.”
While Black Coffee and Waffle Bar will open in downtown Fargo soon, don’t expect a grand opening announcement. Just keep an eye on Instagram.