BISMARCK, N.D. — The grinding of fresh roasted coffee beans fills the crisp morning air with a satisfying sound.
Those on Main Street in Bismarck may smell the consequent aroma as they go about their daily duties.
The activity is centered around BittyBean, a drive-thru coffee and culinary location operating in the heart of North Dakota’s capital city for the last eight years.
The Mindeman family — Trent and his wife, Dawn, and their sons, Durant and his wife, Sydney, and Daryle and his wife, Angele — serve as the backbone for the business and are aided by a team of more than 20 part-time and full-time employees. Trent and Dawn’s daughter, Nicole Bartlett, and her husband, Peter, manage a dairy farm alongside Peter’s family near Bottineau.
The Mindemans take pride in offering fresh, locally roasted coffee that is served with a smile alongside quality food — almost all of which includes a dairy product.
When the Mindemans relocated from western North Dakota to Bismarck, they had previously been operating a catering business. A small coffee shack, complete with running water, a bathroom and basement, was for sale in Bismarck.
The Mindemans saw the potential and opened BittyBean the week before Thanksgiving of 2015.
“We knew how busy drive-thrus were,” Trent Mindeman said. “Then, of course, we were all set up, ready to go during the pandemic when everybody else was scrambling to put a drive-thru window in. Our business actually grew exponentially during that time.”
As business has grown, Mindeman has used his carpentry and entrepreneurial skills to transform the original coffee shack into a Bismarck staple.
Two years after opening, they added two food trucks and transformed one of the box trucks to be used as a commercial kitchen on-site.
“We didn’t have air conditioning, so it was pretty regularly 108 degrees in there in the summer,” Mindeman said. “Every couple of years, we kind of changed things and started adding.”
Two years ago, Mindeman built a coffee facility to better accommodate growing demand. The location is now comprised of three facilities and a green space for outdoor seating.
BittyBean offers a robust menu featuring items customers can depend on, as Mindeman said one of their priorities is a consistent product delivered in a timely fashion.
“When you say waiting, that’s a dirty word to us,” Mindeman said. “One of the reviews we got this week was, ‘The line is usually pretty long, but the customer service, the food and the drinks are out of this world.’ We’re always trying to think of ways to make the line move faster because we don’t want people to even have to think about the line being long.”
Being a coffee shop, dairy is a fixed ingredient.
When BittyBean opened, Mindeman said, they used around 5 gallons of whole milk per week. Now, they are receiving 86 gallons of milk weekly. After all, lattes are a popular item, Mindeman said.
“Real dairy is irreplaceable, really,” Mindeman said. “We use heavy whipping cream, too, because there is no replacement for that.”
Over the course of a week, BittyBean uses 30 pounds of various cheeses, 24 quarts of heavy whipping cream, 15 pounds of Greek yogurt, 14 pounds of butter and 4 quarts of sour cream.
The culinary talent at BittyBean bakes bread daily in addition to scones, cookies, muffins, bars and other pastries. A sourdough focaccia bread is used for a breakfast sandwich, which includes cheese. The focaccia is also the base of a savory cream cheese avocado toast.
“We use pounds and pounds of butter for baking,” Mindeman said.
House-made granola is coupled with a berry blend and Greek yogurt for a parfait.
Pork is smoked in-house to be used on items such as a quesadilla complete with cheddar cheese, sour cream and house-made barbecue sauce.
A marinated grilled chicken pita is served with fresh mozzarella, tomato and spinach, and paired with a savory pesto. A house salad featuring fresh mozzarella and feta is one of the most popular food items, Mindeman said.
Customers can also find pepper jack, provolone, American and marbled Monterey cheeses on sandwiches and wraps.
“We’re always looking to expand our menu,” Mindeman said. “There’s always ideas in the background. We’re always looking for different sandwiches, and they’re always going to have cheese on them.”
BittyBean also offers three alternative products to milk, for those who request it.
“I see people who are getting the alternative milks for maybe a valid reason but also maybe just because it’s trendy,” Mindeman said. “I also have a number of people who want to make sure they’re getting heavy whipping cream. They don’t want half and half.”
Gluten-free items are available as well, which are made in-house. Local tea and matcha are used in addition to local raw honey and local in-season produce.
Mindeman said he finds contentment in owning and operating a business alongside his family. The fact that coffee is served every day is a perk.
“I love coffee,” he said. “And, I love problem solving. I have a creative outlet for both my construction skills and my entrepreneurial skills, and the whole family is the same way. We all love coffee; all love being creative and solving problems and making things work better.”
The relationships created with those who frequent BittyBean is not lost on Mindeman either.
“Last, but not least, I just enjoy meeting people and making people happy,” he said. “The feedback that we get is just amazing. I had one lady tell us today that we were like Big Boy. We haven’t been here as long, but we’re a Bismarck icon. That’s pretty cool.”
With thoughts stirring of a second location, Mindeman said BittyBean is anchored.
“We’re always looking to expand and trying to assess Bismarck and how Bismarck is growing,” Mindeman said. “We don’t ever want to have the sign on the window saying, ‘Closed due to staffing.’ Consistency is No. 1 in the food business, so having the same thing every time people order and being there when they expect you to be there is key.”
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