In 1930, a car dealership opened in Rapid City, selling the latest car models to the residents of the city. Now, 87 years down the road, Aaron Neiman, a veteran coffee-shop owner, had a vision to give that old car dealership a rebirth to what is now Harriet and Oak Café & Roaster.
The name Harriet and Oak is inspired by the duality of the new and old, Neiman being a lover of the vintage and passionate about repurposing “junk” to give it a second chance at life.
“We knew with our business model that we needed two names that worked both together and separate. Harriet is the cafe, and Oak is the roaster,” said Neiman.
Harriet was Neiman’s grandmother’s name. He describes her as a teacher, baker, life-long learner, and an inspiration in his life. Many of her recipes are used for the menu at Harriet and Oak.
Neiman felt that Oak is a name that worked well with Harriet and, like an oak tree, his intention is to be deeply rooted in the community and to be a gathering place for people from all walks of life.
The Neiman family are no strangers to the coffee business, as they own two other brands of coffee shops: Blackbird Espresso in Spearfish and The Green Bean Coffeehouse with two locations in Belle Fourche and Spearfish. Neiman’s experiences have driven him to continue to revolutionize his view on the industry and how he can serve the surrounding community.
One wonders how it’s possible to run multiple businesses in different locations all at once, but for Neiman, coffee has always been more than just a beverage.
“My first exposure to coffee was in the early ‘90s at 6th Street Deli here in Rapid City. Friends and I would drive from Hulett, Wyo. to the ‘big city,’ sit in the loft, and sip our cappuccinos. I still miss that place,” he said.
Neiman points out that coffee does more than just please taste buds and wake up a tired mind. Coffee is nostalgic, communal, and a source of comfort.
“I love the culture that surrounds a coffee shop; the sense of community, the connections you can make, and of course, the coffee. I do love coffee, but I think the thing I’m most passionate about is creating a space where people feel comfortable and welcome,” said Neiman. “Our (informal) mission statement is to create an exclusive community anyone can join; a community where everyone matters. We are really in the people business, we just happen to serve coffee.”
Not only serving exquisite coffee, Harriet and Oak provides an exciting, ethnic menu that “incorporates new or unexpected flavors in our dishes in ways that are both approachable and progressive.” The food found at Harriet and Oak ranges from to-go breakfast burritos, to innovative sandwiches, to waffles, all made from scratch in-house.
A weekly tradition they like to celebrate is Waffle Wednesday. Neiman describes the menu items found on Waffle Wednesday featuring the Classic Waffle and an ever-rotating Special Waffle. To name a few examples, the Special Waffle has been “The Elvis” (chocolate chip waffle, peanut butter, chocolate chips, banana, whipped cream), and the “Dakota Sunrise” (cranberry-orange zest waffle, cranberries, orange juice reduction, and toasted walnuts), which are all topped with real maple syrup.
If you’re not halfway there already, one of the first things you’ll notice when you walk into the doors is a 1967 Volkswagen bus (or the #Oakswagen), intended to seat small groups of people. Neiman felt it was appropriate given the history of the location, but it also gives people a chance to coxnnect more intimately.
“Sometimes the best conversations are had in the driveway. Now you can have them in the comfort of your local coffee shop,” said Neiman.
For more information on Harriet and Oak Café & Roaster, visit facebook.com/harrietandoak.
MORE THAN COFFEE
In the mood for more than coffee or one of their popular “fogs”? Try Harriet and Oak’s food...
Sliced green apple on organic multi-grain bread, sweet and spicy jam, manchego cheese and prosciutto – grilled and topped with sprouts.
SMOKED & ROASTED
A great vegetarian option. Crusty baguette with roasted red pepper and walnut spread, topped with roasted vegetables, smoked gouda and arugula. Add meat $2. Served hot and toasty.
Maple sage mayo, sliced chicken, hard salami, sweet onion, and a smattering of fresh sage. Topped with fresh mozzarella and toasted on a baguette, finished with arugula.
Mild and sweet chicken curry with apples, cashews, tomato, and sprouts on a toasted buttered croissant.
PALEO PUMPKIN BREAD
A delicious quick bread made from coconut flour, almond meal, eggs, and pumpkin, sweetened with honey.
Acai is an Amazonian super fruit packed with antioxidants. Blended with banana and topped with a variety of berries and fruit, house-made granola, shaved coconut, pepitas and bee pollen.
The Kings, Bonnie and Wayne, have been making pastries for years in Lead, S.D. Originally introduced to the area as miner food for the people working at Homestake, they are a sort of hand-made meat pie with fresh ingredients, including beef cut by Wayne on site.