I called earlier this week to set up an interview for this week's column. "Can you call back in a an hour, man? We just got completely slammed with customers," the voice on the other end of the line told me.
I'd later find out I was speaking with Todd (the "T" in the diner's name) Schumacher, co-owner of M&T's Munchies, an obviously popular neighborhood eatery found in the old Palm's Bakery location.
The two-year-old cafe was a perfect match for Todd and his wife Melanie (the "M").
"I've always wanted to own my own business," Todd said, "and my wife has always wanted to have her own coffee shop. We both got to fulfill a dream and it just happened to be at the same place."
The two put their mutual aspirations and collective work experience together. Todd's younger years as a grocer—stocking, placing orders, being a cashier—and Melanie's experience in restaurants, coffee shops and the like made Munchies a no-brainer.
Now they just needed a location.
Palm's Bakery was a St. Louis Park mainstay for 58 years until about five years ago when the business closed, leaving its space dormant. Located in a busy neighborhood across from , Todd and Melanie saw a diamond in the rough.
"We had to put a lot of money into it to get the place operating again," Todd said of the space. "I mean, Palm's was here for 58 years. Everything was out of date—the electrical, the plumbing. We were just working with a shell of what it is now."
Todd mentioned that a number of customers, who clearly have not been back in a while, still come in and ask what happened to Palm's Bakery. But since they're already there, they give M&T's menu a try and are happy with what they've stumbled upon.
"People think because of our name we just carry munchies like chips, cookies, pop ... but we've got an entire menu," Todd said.
That menu includes made-to-order sandwiches, a variety of hand scooped Kemp's ice cream flavors, wraps, baked goods and breakfast items.
"We have breakfast all day actually, our egg sandwiches and breakfast bowls are really popular," Melanie chimed in while on speakerphone (Note: Melanie was unable to attend the interview, but Todd gave her a ring so she could answer a question or two).
There is no one demographic that M&T's caters to. During the school year, students from the high school walk across the street for a healthier alternative to the McDonald's a few blocks up. Each day, there are handful of regulars that come in for their cup of coffee and "the usual." And judging by the drawings in the guest book, the cafe is a hit with youngsters, as well.
"You know, people come here because they like this or they like that," Todd said. "But I think they also come because it's safe."
As I left, I thought about that word. "Safe." It can have a few different connotations. Todd could have meant it's a home-y, welcoming place to be. Or maybe he means their straightforward menu is bound to satisfy any customer regardless of the order.
Judging by the local reputation M&T's has built itself in such a short time, both could easily fit the bill.