I step out of my car to meet a ceiling of steady-pulsed silver pellets—sympathetic, blue skies confined behind unremitting downpours. I try to embrace this excuse to wear my knee-high Hunter Boots and scurry across Eat Street’s puddles to meet with Danielle Bjorling, the Copper Hen’s 26-year old owner.
The Copper Hen’s metal facade has a built-in awning. I’m grateful for it as I shake off the rain. A glance through the door’s wooden-framed windows ignites the feeling of coming home, and the soft light radiating from the restaurant’s interior prompts my entrance. I’m greeted by the host who, politely, doesn’t pay heed to my half-dried shoes.
Danielle and her husband, Chris Bjorling, found the Nicollet Avenue location in January 2014. With their joint entrepreneurial spirits the pair launched aKickstarter to procure the startup capital. That same sense of community from their conception carried into the design of the Copper Hen. Refinished wooden floors and copper tones complement the heritage brick. The wallpaper, stamped with deer and foliage, was installed by Danielle and her family—a true labor of love. Unsurprisingly, a familial feeling engulfs me as I take in the room.
I adjust my umbrella and fidget with my tousled bangs while the host escorts me to a table near the glass-covered display of baked goods. My attention is immediately stolen by the bacon slices on the cream cheese topped cupcakes. A few minutes pass before I allow my eyes to finish grazing over the house-made Mason Jar Cakes and Lemon Thyme Sugar Cookies and artisan breads.
I recognize Danielle behind the bar. The all too familiar rain drops have also saturated corners of her soft, chambray shirt. Danielle shifts her long, blonde hair, moving it to rest over a single shoulder, and combs her fingers through the mass to remove invisible knots. As I take a sip of water, I see the host inform Danielle of my arrival from the corner of my eye.
Danielle’s introduction is warm and genial. Her spunky personality is accentuated by her jeweled, cat-eyed glasses; and she lets out a vivacious giggle as she joins me, offering a wooden serving plate of bountiful charcuterie. We connect over the Copper Hen’s commitment to local and sustainably sourced ingredients, and dig into the Butcher’s Selection of market-to-table cured meats and cheeses, which are accompanied by sweet jam and pickled vegetables.
Danielle grew up in Greenfield, MN. As a child of 6, she learned independence and responsibility at an early age. Danielle’s love for baking grew with the countless hours she spent in the kitchen making breads and desserts for her family. Local, indulgent ingredients were in abundance–packaged, processed desserts were unheard of.
At the age of 14, Danielle had started making desserts for friends and family events. Following the compliments she received, Danielle became motivated to further grow her understanding of baking and decorating techniques. With determination, she marched to the neighborhoodJoann Fabrics and eagerly signed herself up for a cake decorating class. Her dream to become a baker was all the more fueled by the hands-on lessons she received during jobs in the bakeries of Lund’s andTarget in the years to follow.
As Danielle grew older, she knew that she wanted to grow in the profession, but she also envisioned her passion stemming far beyond the traditional order-and-pick-up bakery. She wanted to create an atmosphere where patrons are welcome to stay and share homemade food over hours of stories and wine.
The host brings over a couple of glasses of cabernet, and I sit with Danielle feeling inspired and revived. Today, the Copper Hen has become a home away from home where the white, napkin linens and ambiance feel as rustic as the heirloom recipes. Danielle has accomplished her dream of opening a “farmhouse-chic” restaurant that’s grounded with a commitment to fresh, local ingredients. And I raise a glass to Danielle and her husband, Chris, for their steadfast celebration of community in this little stretch of town.