Big column pillars frame the entrance to an old house on the corner of North Shore Drive and U.S. Highway 61, left forgotten and sitting empty over the last decade. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time to 1912, when the house was built by the Houle family of Forest Lake. The original hardwood floors were left in near-pristine condition. An original brick fireplace stands as the center of attention. Custom woodwork adorns the house and frames the curved glass corner of windows. The home was built by Joseph W. Houle in 1912 for $8,000. The family eventually opened up a grocery store, known as Houle Grocery, and was passed on through the generations. In 1996, the family sold the house to Fran and DeDe Lichtscheidl of Forest Lake. The Lichtscheidls never lived in the home, but instead donated the property to those looking to host a fundraiser or use it as a temporary museum, and opened the home up to tours. The last time the property was used was three years ago.
It’s a house with over of a century’s worth of memories and stories to share, said Calvin Waddle, who will be adding more stories to the house in his new endeavor: owning and operating a new coffee shop named Coffee Smith out of the house.
“My goal is to unite people around the house and the history it brings to Forest Lake and [offer] quality coffee and quality goods,” Waddle said.
Echoes of memories gone by fill the house (at 432 North Shore Dr.) and now the air as people wonder what’s going on in the old house down the street from Mallard’s. As a server at Mallard’s, Waddle hears many of those stories. The Houle family often hosted community events, like hosting dances in the house’s spacious attic.
“People used to just always be here. They just used it for the city, and people would come over,” Waddle said. “When I had heard that this used to be used for a community space, it gave me one of those moments where I was like, ‘It’s going to be used for the community again.’ That was another one of those moments where it felt this is right.”
Waddle, a 2013 Forest Lake Area High School graduate, struggled to find the right fit for a career. He pursued music and nursing in college. He landed in the food and beverage service industry, initially working at Dunn Bros., where he fell in love with coffee. He eventually landed a job at Quixotic Coffee Shop in St. Paul, where he still works as a barista.
“I fell in love with that community and that style of the coffee shop there,” Waddle said. “I would just love for the [Forest Lake] community to experience a different connection around coffee.”
A few years ago, Waddle began dreaming of owning his own coffee shop, and every once in a while, he would go out looking at property and locations to dream a little more. He had the feeling he’d found the location for his coffee shop when he was driving around the area with a friend and they spotted an old house for sale two years ago. When he and his mom took a tour of the house with their Realtor, that inkling got stronger.
“My mom was on the first tour, and she was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this place has been sitting vacant for this long?’ And if it sits any longer, we were afraid it was going to get torn down,” Waddle said. “So I started working on business plans around this location.”
Before he closed on the house, he had already printed business cards with that address on them for an event.
“I just felt so comfortable doing that,” Waddle said. “Like it felt right.”
Waddle closed on the house on April 30 and has since been working at remodeling it for the coffee shop and a living space for him and several roommates upstairs.
“We’re redoing the space so it’s kept up with how it used to look as much as possible,” Waddle said.
The vision Waddle has revolves around community. He has always loved the idea of helping build community and friendships alongside his passion for serving others, something he recognized and built at his time working at a group home and later through working at Quixotic Coffee.
“It was a personal connection,” Waddle said.
Coffee Smith became the name before Waddle looked at the house, but when he toured it, he thought it made perfect sense given the house’s artisanship and handcrafted details. He chose the name because of the artisanship and handmade goods he plans to provide, including handmade goods and coffee made with fair-trade beans. Floor plans and beverage choices for Coffee Smith are still being worked out. Still, he’s excited to get things ready to open to the community by the end of 2019 and begin a new chapter in the house’s life, filling it with more stories and memories of the community.