It all started in the cramped 30-inch space under the
“It was crawling on my elbows and knees,” Jonathan Gomez
Whitney said. “I’m laying there on my shoulder in the dirt, pounding one board
up, then another.”
That crawlspace is where Gomez Whitney started reinforcing
the floors for northeast Minneapolis’ newest coffee shop, Spyhouse. The
company’s third location on Broadway Avenue (an area previously lacking in
spots to grab a cup of joe) is set to open in a few weeks.
- Fun Fact:
Jonathan Gomez Whitney reinforced the floors of the coffee shop to support the
1,000-pound pallets of coffee beans workers needed to roll from the door to the
- 945 Broadway St. NE.
Minneapolis, MN 55413
The Spyhouse sits in the corner of The Broadway building, a
renovated mattress factory that still gives off a warehouse feel. Owner
Christian Johnson teamed up with designer and creator Gomez Whitney.
“We wanted a really good space, and then we were going to
draw our inspirations from the space,” Gomez Whitney said, referencing the wood
floors, horizontal beam work and scumbled texture of the pre-existing walls. “It’s
all meant to be a response. I don’t feel you can force a design.”
After hundreds of hours of work, Gomez Whitney is about to
step away from the space he so lovingly labored over and helped create. One of
his favorite things to look at in the space is the carriage bi-fold door he
“The architects seemed to think it would [not work],” he
said. “It took me a long time to figure out how it would operate.”
The wood door, along with the nearly floor-to-ceiling
windows the designer installed in the corner of the shop (below) are meant to open the
space up to those walking by.
“I think it’s just a big invitation,” Gomez Whitney said.
“The purpose is to turn the space a little bit inside out.”
Inside the coffee shop, all of the barn wood used (more than 3,000 board feet) was reclaimed
from Amish families in Wisconsin.
“We were trying to use replenishable materials as much as we
possibly could,” Gomez Whitney said.
Most of the reclaimed barn planking the team obtained was 6 or 8
inches wide. Gomez Whitney and his assistant cut the boards down to 3-inch
planks to cover the 60-foot long and 13-foot high wall immediately to your left
when you walk in the coffee shop.
He also designed and built all the tables and chairs for the
newest Spyhouse—the most contemporary edition to the space.
“We wanted to create some modern horizontal lines or straight
rigid lines,” the designer said of the dark tabletops. The chairs he created (not pictured) were based of schoolhouse chair design, but modernized with streamlined legs
inspired by the Eames chair.
To make the wood planks for the walls 3 inches wide and all
the same size, each board had to be cut. After cutting 750 boards, there were
barrels and barrels of leftover scrap wood. Instead of throwing it out, Gomez
and his assistant reclaimed the leftover reclaimed wood to create the front of
the bar counter (below).
The wood isn’t the only reclaimed material in the space. The
steel-framed factory windows installed above the bench (below) are too. Gomez Whitney
started looking for them almost a year ago.
“They were really a hot commodity and we couldn’t find them
at any stores,” he said.
Instead, he found them in a building set to be demolished
near the University of Minnesota campus. He called the demolition contractor to
ask if he could remove the windows. The contractor said he couldn’t give the
designer his permission, but that if the windows disappeared over the weekend
he wouldn’t be upset.
“I was nervous,” he said, but he managed to get eight
windows out of the building before it was torn down.
“I searched for these windows forever, I wasn’t going to not
take them,” he said.
The Spyhouse’s newest coffee shop is set to open once the custom vintage roaster arrives. Until then, Gomez Whitney and Spyhouse owner Christian Johnson will continue to put the finishing touches on the design and decor of the space.
“None of this would
be as cool if it wasn’t both of us working on it,” Gomez Whitney said.