Dubuque cafe to transfer to new ownership, adopt new name

A coffee shop in Dubuque’s Millwork District soon will have a new owner and name.

Darin Shireman, owner of Dubuque-based roasting operation Wayfarer Coffee, said he will take ownership of Inspire Cafe, 955 Washington St., on Friday, Oct. 1. Shireman said the shop’s moniker will be changed to Wayfarer Coffee, adopting the name of the roasting operation that he started 11 years ago.

Inspire Cafe opened in late 2014. Sara Post initially served as the majority owner of the business, while Scott and Julia Theisen have taken on that role in recent years.

Shireman noted that the cafe was a customer of Wayfarer Coffee, an arrangement through which he learned a great deal about the business and got to know the Theisens.

“It is a cool business, and I absolutely love the space,” Shireman said. “When they approached me about potentially purchasing the business, it was a no-brainer.”

Shireman has been in the coffee business for nearly two decades. He initially worked as a barista and then spent time managing a chain of coffee shops in South Carolina. Shireman returned to the tri-state area in 2010 and began running Badger Bros. Coffee.

In recent years, Shireman sold Badger Bros. and shifted his focus entirely to wholesale commercial roasting. He continues the roasting component of Wayfarer Coffee out of a facility on Cedar Cross Court in Dubuque.

Shireman expressed a deep appreciation for the atmosphere and culture established at Inspire Cafe.

“We are keeping the heart and spirit that has always been and was meant to be there. … This business has been a labor of love, and they’ve worked hard to establish a community there,” Shireman said.

In the coming months, however, a series of changes will be introduced.

New signage will reinforce the transition to a new name, and longer afternoon hours will be adopted.

Shireman emphasized that popular food items — such as the Buddha bowls and breakfast burritos — will remain on the menu. Those soon will be augmented by a variety of grab-and-go items such as sandwiches and wraps. Seasonal items — such as homemade soups in the winter — will round out the offerings.

In conjunction with the eventual shift to later hours, Wayfarer Coffee will focus on serving creative cocktails and a wider range of appetizers.

Manager Abby Reding said the staff’s familiarity with Shireman will ease the transition to a new era of ownership.

“We’re super excited,” she said. “We have known (Shireman) for a long time. We know how knowledgeable he is and what he will bring to the business.”

Reding believes Inspire Cafe has established a strong reputation and built a loyal customer base during its time in the Millwork District.

“We try hard to make a personal connection with the customers, to get to know them and their stories,” she said. “We definitely have a base of loyal customers, and that base is continuing to grow.”

A call placed to Scott and Julia Theisen seeking comment was not returned.

Inspire Cafe is currently open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily and can be reached at 563-583-8338.

Residents can learn more about Wayfarer Coffee by visiting www.wayfarercoffee.com.