by Tori O’Dell
New owners, Kody and McKinsy Lietz ,officially introduced themselves to patrons of Ugly Mugs Coffee House in Nokomis on Monday, Aug. 2. “It went much smoother than we anticipated and we have had a lot of support from the community, which has been great,” said McKinsy, about the couple’s first week as the new owners of Ugly Mugs.
Ugly Mugs has been a staple at 125 West State Street in Nokomis since 2017, when Tim and Ann Brookshire opened the shop, which had started as “Dreams” coffee shop. The couple didn’t know much about coffee when they opened but recognized the importance of a community based coffee shop. Four-and-a-half years later the couple once again found themselves at a crossroad, ready to embark on new adventures of their own but not to close the coffee shop, when Kody Lietz, a regular customer, happened to amble through the door.
“I have a slight coffee addiction; don’t even ask me how much money I spend at Ugly Mugs and Black Rabbit on a regular basis,” said Kody, with a self-deprecating grin. “I discovered Ugly Mugs when CTI (where he is employed as a fiber splicer) was putting fiber lines in Nokomis. When we finished, I was still driving through Nokomis, because we were working in Pana, so I would stop for a coffee every day.”
Lietz’s outgoing personality led to quick friendships with the coffee shop’s baristas and then-owner Tim Brookshire. It was during one of these amicable interactions that he learned the Brookshires were planning to move from the area.
“Well, my first thought was, ‘what is going to happen to the coffee shop?’ I waited about a week and then I messaged Tim and roundaboutedly asked if he was looking for a buyer,” Kody explained. “Of course, I have always wanted to buy a coffee shop to drink the coffee, but it wasn’t something that was in either of our plans. ”
“I thought it was crazy,” McKinsy interjected with a laugh. “When he introduced the idea of buying the coffee shop to me it was totally unexpected. But then we met with the Brookshires and it started to feel more like fate than whimsy.”
The Lietzes weren’t the only ones left feeling like divine intervention was at play.
“God works in amazing ways. Kody and McKinsy fell into our laps right when we were looking to do something else with life and searching for the perfect person to take over the coffee house we have worked so hard to perfect,” Ann Brookshire wrote in a post introducing the new owners on Ugly Mugs’ Facebook page. “It’s time for someone new to take the reins and bring fresh and exciting ideas to the place. Kody and McKinsy are a match made in coffee shop heaven. I ask that you please show them the amazing love and support that you have graciously shown to us over the years.”
While the Brookshires will be missed, customers will still have a few familiar faces behind the counter, though many of the coffeehouse’s baristas are preparing to embark on adventures of their own, leaving for college or returning to high school.
Kody is an active presence in the business; however, since he has a 9 to 5 job with CTI, customers are more likely to see McKinsy’s smiling face behind the counter on a day-to-day basis.
The former preschool teacher has been learning the ropes of making the various espresso drinks, teas and frappuccinos on the Ugly Mugs menu, as well as getting to know the shop’s customers. She also bakes all of the pastries and donuts sold in the shop daily.
“On the days my mom helps with the kids (Emery and Aven) I work behind the counter as one of the baristas and on the days that I am home with them I take care of the behind-the-scenes jobs like inventory and purchasing beans for our coffee and espresso machines,” McKinsy explained. “I have really enjoyed meeting all of the regulars and getting to know them. I love it all, but the baking is my favorite part. I actually think that is why Tim and Ann sold the business to us – they wanted someone who could bake since B&K Bakery, their former suppliers, stopped delivering.”
Funnily enough, baking was a latent talent that McKinsy only recently discovered.
“To be honest I have no idea where the skill came from. My mom is not a cook and I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen growing up – Kody suffered through a lot of really bad dinners in our early days of marriage,” McKinsy admitted, smiling up at Kody who tentatively nodded in agreement. “But I have two sisters and my oldest sister, Alexis, lives in Nashville, TN, so we have a big family dinner whenever she comes to visit and make anything that she wants to eat. On one of her more recent visits she asked for soup and a crusty bread. I had never baked bread before but I told her I would make some for her, and she laughed at me. Our little sister, Sierra, also thought the idea of me baking bread was hilarious and they gauged up on me saying that I couldn’t do it. I was determined to prove them wrong, so I started learning to bake bread and it turned out that I was actually really good at it. Then I got slightly obsessed with baking and it went from bread to cakes, cupcakes, pies and pastries. Of course, now my sisters credit themselves for my baking professionally.”
McKinsy is getting plenty of opportunity to hone her baking skills as she plans to bake all of the pastries sold at Ugly Mugs in-house. She stated that donuts are heavily in demand at the moment and she has been whipping out fun new flavors to keep her customers happy. A few of her most recent specialty baked treats include blueberry cheesecake donuts, apple crumb danish, strawberries and cream scones, french toast muffins, coconut cream long johns, S’mores doughnuts and banana cream long johns.
While Sara Bakes Cakes items will no longer be available at the counter customers can still special order her products at the coffee shop. Rolling Lawns Farm dairy products will remain readily available for purchase at Ugly Mugs. The couple also plans to continue the former owners’ collaboration with local artisans to display and sell their wares out of the coffee house. Supporting and working alongside fellow small business owners is something they hope to expand further into as they gain their bearings, both in Nokomis and throughout Montgomery County. Black Rabbit Coffee Roasting in Hillsboro supplies the espresso and coffee beans used to make the shop’s popular drinks and the couple encourages local groups to contact them to rent out the space during the shop’s off hours. Fees vary depending on the event and amount of time a barista is required to prepare drinks.
“There are already several vendors that sell their items here, including students from the CEO program,” Kody explained. “And we have been speaking with other small businesses about some really cool ways that we can collaborate in the future. We also want this to continue to be a place where the community comes together.”
Ugly Mugs is open from 6 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. In addition to in-person service, customers have the option to place an order online at www.order.odeko.com (type Ugly Mugs Nokomis in the search bar) for pickup or curbside delivery.
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