The Goat gets a new house

Local coffee shop moves one block closer to campus


The Goat, 336 Water St., is smaller than its previous location. The owners balanced the size decrease with a cozier feel. © 2014 Elizabeth Jackson.

Story by Courtney Kueppers, Copy Editor

Kaldi, a goat herder in Ethiopia, lost his herd. He found them in a field prancing around a bush eating the berries. And that’s how coffee was discovered, or so the legend goes.

A local coffee shop, which recently moved up a block, based its name on the legend.

“When we researched names for the shop and everything was cliché and you take a chance on something strange like the goat and it worked,” Ryan Bembnister, The Goat House co-owner, said.

The Goat Coffee House first opened its doors at 408 Water St. in 2005. After nine years of success, the lease was up. Co-owners Ryan Bembnister and wife Laura Bembnister moved their coffee shop to 336 Water St. in early December. The location formerly housed Ralph’s Boot & Shoe.

“The move has been great,” Ryan Bembnister said. “We are almost two months in now and it has been nothing but great feedback.”

The husband-wife duo had a party when the new location opened on Dec. 6, but saved the large grand opening celebration for last week when college students returned to town.

Although the weather was not ideal, Bembnister said the party went well. It was a chance to show off the space to students and community members while giving out free samples and various giveaways.

Recent UW- Eau Claire graduate Sarah Zais said she likes the new location of one of her favorite coffee shops, but she hasn’t forgotten the original.

“I am a very sentimental person so I was like ‘Wait it’s not the same,’” Zais said. “If I had never been to the old one and didn’t have expectations I think it would be great. But I’m sentimental.”

The Goat’s new digs are 500 square feet smaller, the ceilings are 8 feet high in contrast to the old 12-foot ceilings and the shop is 20 feet wide instead of 22, but it’s working out, Ryan Bembnister said.

“We came up with the best layout possible to make it more comfy, more cozy, more clean, neat and new for people,” Ryan Bembnister said.

Nichelle Jennings, an Eau Claire junior and Goat regular, said she likes the new atmosphere.

“I think it’s really great,” Jennings said. “It’s more like coming to hang out at a friends house.”

The Bembnisters started by running an A&W franchise in the Shopko plaza they inherited from a family member. They enjoyed running the business, but were not pleased with the franchise aspect, Ryan Bembnister said.

“Just looking through a magazine we saw there was a coffee house for sale down on Water Street,” Ryan Bembnister said. “It was Seattle Pride at the time. We came down, looked at it and about 30 days later we had that. And we were able to dissolve our contracts with the franchise within a year and get out of that space and focus mostly on here.”

Besides a laundry list of “little things,” Ryan Bembnister said they are feeling settled into their new home.

In the 500-square-foot downsize, Ryan Bembnister said finding storage space was the biggest challenge.

In the spring, Ryan Bembnister said there will be outdoor patio seating behind the store with speakers to offer the same cozy atmosphere as inside.