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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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Node offers a 24-hour haven to college crowd


Most coffee shops in Milwaukee have a relatively early bedtime. Closing times do not coincide, however, with the schedules of Milwaukee's healthy population of students, says Zach Derksen, UWM student. Derksen is also part owner of Node, Milwaukee's newest and only coffee shop to operate 24 hours a day, located at 1504 E. North Ave.

Derksen says that the shop has seen a steady flow of business since opening on Friday, despite a lack of any advertising or marketing. Business from the late night crowd has been doing especially well, says Derksen.

"We get a huge crowd from Rochambo when they close," says Derksen, who also said a lot of cops and cab drivers have come in search of caffeine during the wee hours of the night.

Derksen and his three co-partners also make up the shop's staff, each taking 12-hour shifts, seven days a week to keep it open around the clock. "We'd like to hire on some help in the next few months or so," said Derksen, halfway through his 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift.

The entrance room of Node is reminiscent of your typical, modern coffee shop with lime green walls, black metal tables and chairs and a chrome coffee bar. Large canvases with abstract art, mostly by MIAD students and grads, hang on the walls. Some is for sale, but most of the artists just wanted an opportunity to display their work, says Derksen. Rhythmic techno plays at a moderate level in the background.

The flow of colorful art and music continue into an adjoining larger, lounge area with several arrangements of multi-colored, secondhand couches, chairs and coffee tables collected from thrift stores and through donations from family and friends.

"This is a lot like a friend's basement, or a living room where you can just sit and relax with a group of your friends and talk," says Derksen.

One wall of the lounge room has computer work stations (not available until sometime next week) complete with an Internet hook-up, software, scanning and printer capabilities. The shop plans to charge $4 per hour to use the stations.

"The computer labs at UWM have such a sterile environment," says Derksen, who hopes Node's cyber capabilities will further attract Milwaukee's large student population.

Node is smoker friendly, which is especially evident in the smaller, less ventilated front sitting area. Those not looking for a nicotine fix may want to find a corner in the lounge room, or take their coffee to go.

Along with traditional espresso fare, a special organic blend coffee created by the folks at Alterra, and Rishi Tea, Derksen says other non-coffee drinks have been just as popular. "Surprisingly, Gatorade has been a big seller," says Derksen. Node also offers fresh sandwiches, bakery from East Side Ovens, Blue Dog bagels and breakfast classics like cornflakes.

While it's in no way exclusive, Node will arguably attract a younger crowd and it's not a coincidence that all four of Node's managing partners are in their 20s themselves. Derksen says the corresponding age factor is only an added benefit.

"When we were designing the place we thought a lot of ourselves and what we would want in a coffee shop," says Derksen. "People want a place to sit and relax without getting hurried out the door."

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