Exotic plant entrepreneur takes ‘Hats Off’ to Long Prairie coffee shop

Daiv Freeman opened Hats Off Coffee in Long Prairie in June 2013. He operates two other businesses from the shop with mostly mail-order sales: Explorer Hats and Exotic Plant Books.
Daiv Freeman opened Hats Off Coffee in Long Prairie in June 2013. He operates two other businesses from the shop with mostly mail-order sales: Explorer Hats and Exotic Plant Books.

By Jennie Zeitler
Staff Writer
[email protected]

Daiv Freeman grew up in Little Sauk, graduating from high school in Sauk Centre. After leaving Minnesota to head west in the mid 1990s he first landed in Utah before moving to California.

A position with an auto parts company easily transformed into a telecommuting job, which facilitated a 2007 move back to Minnesota with his wife, Madelyn, and their children.

It was a big change for Madelyn, but “the friendliness of people in Long Prairie made all the difference,” Freeman said.

As a nurse at the clinic, she got to know people faster than Freeman, who was working at home.

“I knew people at the Post Office, but no one else,” he said.

When the auto parts company went out of business, Freeman turned what had been a hobby in California, “kind of a sandbox for me to play in,” into an active business. His interest in cacti became a mail-order book business.

“A bookseller in Arizona had a book I wanted but the website was never updated and they didn’t answer the phone,” he said. “I asked if they would sell the business and got some inventory from them.”

Freeman built a website and started buying more books. His focus is on specialty books about botany and horticulture, primarily self-published volumes.

“Books from small publishers are a better investment,” he said.

His inventory is listed on amazon.com and eBay. He has shipped books to more countries than he can count, including Germany, Brazil, England, Japan and South Africa.

“For instance, I’m the only person in the U.S. who offers a particular book by Graham Charles,” he said. “In another case, I’m the only one left in the world who has any copies of a particular book.”

After that business was up and running, Freeman wanted to replace a hat he had purchased years earlier in California.

“The manufacturer referred me to a place that didn’t have it,” he said. “I looked into buying hats directly from the manufacturer, ordering a couple different styles.”

Freeman thought that since he was already selling books he would just list some hats on his website.

“Hats didn’t work well on that site so I made a whole new website,” he said. “I got an email from someone in England looking for a hat and ordered more styles.

He quickly realized hats take up a lot of room and were hard to fit in the spare bedroom at home. He was also discovering that people were really interested, after seeing the hat he wore.

“My dad wanted one, people planting trees, people at the Post Office, a guy at the bank,” he said. “I thought it would be nice for people to see the inventory.”

As he drove to the Post Office to send packages one day in February 2013, he spotted the empty former bank building across from St. Mary’s Church on Central Avenue.

“I looked in the windows, then called a realtor,” said Freeman. “Since it had a drive-through I thought it would be perfect for selling coffee. It was just a matter of planning it out.”

Freeman’s uncle in Rochester roasts coffee beans and offered him advice. Freeman measured the building and drew up a floor plan.

“I called the health department and talked to the bank,” he said. “I already had the book and hat inventory.”

Freeman did considerable research into top-quality water to protect his machines. All the water in the building is descaled and filtered, with no salt.

The doors to Hats Off Coffee opened in June 2013. The shop offers a selection of premium coffee and espresso drinks. People can enjoy their drinks inside or outside and use the free Wi-Fi or take advantage of the drive-through window.

“Our coffee cannot be duplicated,” Freeman said. “We select the choicest fresh beans and roast them to bring out the maximum flavor. Since the beans are roasted right here in Minnesota, they never sit in a warehouse or spend days on trucks. They are then ground right before they are brewed. Our drip coffee is brewed into ‘air pots’ which do not have burners that destroy the flavor.”

Stuffed pretzels, desserts and baked goods, fruit smoothies and cold drinks are also served.

Interestingly enough, “the hats are what bring people in,” Freeman said.

For more information, call (855) 838-2233 or visit www.hatsoffcoffee.com.