As a college student at Macalester College, Danny Schwartzman had been heavily involved in promoting environmentally friendly practices in his community. As an active community organizer, Danny played a key role in establishing the partnership between Macalester College and University Bank. In July 2007, just a few years out of college, he opened Common Roots Café, a coffee house in Uptown Minneapolis. Common Roots Café serves as a community hub, provides good food, a community meeting space, a full-service bakery, catering options, and great coffee.
The opening of Common Roots Café was made possible through a University Bank small business loan. Since Danny has always been a supporter of social responsible businesses, he chose University Bank. Financial assistance from University Bank allowed Danny to implement his innovative and socially responsible business plan. Common Roots Café currently makes all of their food from scratch using local, organic, and fair-trade ingredients whenever possible. They strive to use only the best ingredients to provide quality products to their customers while offering them at a reasonable price.
When Danny envisioned running his own small business, he knew he wanted the community to benefit from its space. With that vision in mind, he included a separate room within the café that serves as a free meeting space for nonprofit organizations. Danny stays true to his vision by maintaining and further developing strong relationships with local farmers and his employees, and operating in an environmentally friendly way. The relationships between Common Roots Café and their farmers benefit both parties while lessening their impact on the environment. The café is able to create fresh products based on what is in season; this practice also allows for an ever-changing menu. The environmentally friendly practices at Common Roots Café help keep their impact on the environment to a minimum. Together with Eureka Recycling, the café helped launch a composting program. They also serve food on reusable and recycled products and make sure daily operations are eco-friendly.
Those who are lucky enough to work in this environment receive a living wage, time off and health insurance. Danny doesn’t believe that businesses should assume they cannot profit by providing living wages; it is not a matter of “how it affects your business, but what is right,” as Danny says. These business practices present opportunities to operate more efficiently and create a positive environment managed by an enthusiastic and hard working staff.
Although Common Roots Café has accomplished a great deal in less than a year, Danny recognizes that this is only the beginning. He wants to continue running a viable socially responsible business, further support community engagement, learn how to better support local farmers, and increase community involvement.