RED WING — When Mandy Cardinal moved to Red Wing five years ago, she saw an opportunity to do something she felt was important: create a downtown coffee shop that could be a hub in the community.

Her vision was right, because her shop called Mandy’s, which opened in July 2015, is a popular hangout on West Third Street, and has been named Restaurant of the Year the last two years in the Red Wing Chamber of Commerce business awards celebration.

“We have provided the community with a quality product, but also that community aspect that it needed, a place to meet and gather with friends,” Cardinal said. “It’s a slice of Red Wing. People from all walks of life gather here. That’s been the success behind Mandy’s, that community gathering and the environment. We have a nice location.”

Mandy Cardinal's signature coffeeshop in Red Wing is all about getting to know people. The little welcoming touches are key. RiverTown Multimedia file photo
Mandy Cardinal's signature coffeeshop in Red Wing is all about getting to know people. The little welcoming touches are key. RiverTown Multimedia file photo

Cardinal grew up in the Twin Cities, attended school in St. Cloud, and lived in Nashville, before moving to Red Wing to open the restaurant.

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She said that even though the restaurant requires a lot of labor and the margins are small, it is easy to find enjoyment in the coffee shop business.

“You are giving someone a treat and starting their day, so we don’t deal with a ton of complaints or people that are down,” Cardinal said. “People are looking for that uplifting experience, and it is really fun to be part of that.”

Opening the restaurant was difficult, but after five years, Cardinal says it feels more in control, less chaotic.

“I have a system and how to manage my own life, personal and professional, and that is important,” she said. “What a unique opportunity I have to run this place. I have been able to find a lot of joy and meaning through the relationships that we have built with the staff and the community. By having employees that can feel that vision and support that vision as well, ultimately the customer can sense that, too. It is a fun welcoming great place to be.”

Cardinal attributes much of the success to a loyal, enthusiastic staff. Many have been with the restaurant for a long time, including at least one who has been on board since the first day.

“I try to tell my staff that you need to be true to your personality,” she said. “We don’t need to be phony. I think that people can feel that we are genuine. I think they like the space. It is great for meetings. It has a warm feeling to it. The artwork. All of it ties in to make a good experience.”

Cardinal said she especially enjoys the constant interaction with the many people who come into Mandy’s each day.

“I feel like I know a lot of people in the community, and that is important, especially since I am not from here originally,” she said. “It’s a good place to meet people. You see a little bit of everything , the city workers, the factory workers, the business owners, the people from the library. It’s interesting.”

Cardinal didn’t expect to win the award two years in a row, but noted, “That’s an honor. Over time we have fine-tuned our offerings and our efficiency, and that is what we will continue to do in 2020, just fine-tune what we are doing.”