Our Progress story about the Pix.

Editor’s note: This article was written just before Governor Walz ordered restaurants and bars to close. Some updates are included, plus some additional notes. Enjoy the story of the Pix and remember, someday everything will be normal again.

What’s old?  What’s new?  What’s happening?

I confess. The theme for this year’s Progress series came from the biggest thing Main Street Sleepy Eye has experienced in years — the renovation of the “old” Pix theater building to become the “new” Sleepy Eye Coffee Company and the “new” Sleepy Eye Brewing Company, and the acknowledgement that both are “happening” business places.

The buzz has been in the air since May 2018, when Adam and Karlyn Armbruster were the guest speakers at a Chamber business after hours event at the Depot Museum. The Sleepy Eye Historical Society was unveiling the annual Christmas ornament, featuring Steffen Brewery, and asked the Armbrusters to tell the guests about the new brewery they had planned for Sleepy Eye.

Adam and Karlyn had purchased the Pix building the previous November and had been busy planning for the coffee shop and brewery that would be developed in the Pix.

Local people and former residents of Sleepy Eye took a keen interest in the renovation of a building that held many memories for them. Worries that the building would never be home to a business again were put to rest as the community watched as the project came to fruition.

The first big sign of progress was the big sign — the restored marquee that was lit up for community enjoyment on Christmas Eve, 2018.

The following winter, spring, and summer, we all had to be content with peeking in the window, or sneaking in the door if it was open, to see the wonderful transformation the Armbrusters achieved in the Pix.

The Sleepy Eye Coffee Company opened the first week of October and by the end of December the Sleepy Eye Brewing Company was open, too.

Let’s just say, the Pix has been a happening place ever since.

On the days that Dr. Karlyn Armbruster is not on duty at the Sleepy Eye Medical Center, the Sleepy Eye Coffee Company owner enjoys spending some time at her unofficial office — a table with a view out the window on the upper level of her shop.

I met her there the other day to find out how things are going and what we’ll see happening in the coming months.

“Things are going very well,” Karlyn said. “Adam and I have been very humbled by the support from the community.”

Karlyn said Sleepy Eye Coffee Company is busy from early morning on, with customers of all ages and all walks of life.

“We have teenagers and adults, who stop in for their favorite coffee drink before school or work, every day,” she said. “We have groups of friends who come for coffee or lunch.”

Karlyn said the Coffee Company has hosted small group meetings, and parties like wedding and baby showers. She said they offer bulk orders for pick up. “Sometimes business will order rolls, sandwiches, even coffee,” she said. “We’ve also made food for some brewery events.”

Karlyn said online ordering from Sleepy Eye Coffee Company is available. “You can place your order, pay with your card, and just come pick your order up,” she said.

Just as the Armbrusters worked with as many local area contractors as possible when renovating the Pix, Karlyn said they also purchase as many ingredients locally as they can.

“We get local eggs, local honey, milk from Schutz’s that is from local farms, local bison and pork, and cheese and processed meats from Schweiss Meats,” said Karlyn. “And our coffee is from Kool Beans, located in Brookings, S.D.”

Did you know that you can purchase whole coffee beans at Sleepy Eye Coffee Company and ask them to grind them for you? It’s true, you can!

Sleepy Eye Coffee Company has settled on their regular menu offerings, along with changing specials many days. This week (March 17 to 20) they are having a special St. Patrick’s Day Special during lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. They’ll have a corned beef brisket and cabbage sandwich, banger & mash stew, Irish soda bread, and Leprechaun Latte or Shamrock Shake, all for the reasonable price of $15. It can be ordered for takeout.

The Sleepy Eye Coffee Company is managed by David and Samarah Forster. Karlyn said the Forsters are always trying new ideas and have a couple in the works right now.

“We plan to have a Mother’s Day supper,” Karlyn said. “And Samarah is working on an idea to provide outings here for moms and young kids.”

[March 17 update - Karlyn said they will plan to resume events whenever these social isolation restrictions are lifted.]

“You know Dustin and Darrin Haala and their company, Haala Jeans?” asked Karlyn. “We are looking at having a Haala Jeans trunk show here, too!”

The two companies in the Pix offer some joint events also, as they did with their Valentine’s Day dessert and beer pairing special. Karlyn said that was a very good event. “We sold all the tickets we expected to,” she said.

With the recent addition of a piano in the Pix, Karlyn said they want to have “Open Keys” on Sundays. “We have a couple piano players lined up, but will be happy to have anyone take a seat and play some music.”

The Sleepy Eye Brewing Company has also been a popular place, according to Karlyn. The business is owned by Adam Armbruster and his business partners: Judd Walter, Dan Schmid, Blair Folkens, and Adam Fischer. Kelly Krzmarzick was hired to manage the brewery.

Special events on the Sleepy Eye Brewing Company side of the Pix have included food trucks or food vendors most Friday nights, and live music most Saturday nights.

“The brewery recently hosted a Trivia Night and people really enjoyed that,” Karlyn said. A full list of events at Sleepy Eye Brewing Company is found on their Facebook page, and will be updated as needed.

“We have had so much success,” Manager Kelly Krzmarzick said. “Live entertainment, food trucks, trivia night, all have been a great success.”

“The craft beers that we have provided since we opened in late December have all gone over so well,” added Krzmarzick. “We have a large variety of crowlers for offsale, even while we are closed.” The crowlers will be sold during Coffee Company hours.

Karlyn said they hope to have some indoor/outdoor events this summer. It’s an idea they are working on.

Karlyn said the Pix’s location on busy Highway 14 has also prooved to be a boon, thanks especially to the marquee that features changing messages about food, coffee, and events.

“One day I was looking out this window and saw a semi slowing down. There just happened to be a half block of open parking spaces out front,” she said, “and sure enough, he pulled over and came in for coffee and a treat! He said at first he thought it was a movie theater, but saw the message and had to come in!”

“Adam and I really hope this is just the beginning of big changes for downtown,” said Karlyn. “We know Sleepy Eye has so much potential for downtown businesses.”