When Morgan Park School closed in 2012, the neighborhood seemed to be in decline. Two prominent businesses, Advantage Emblem and Park State Bank, had already moved out. The grocery store and post office were long gone. Nothing new seemed on the horizon.
Paul Johnson and his son Brandon, owners of the Lakeview Store Building, felt the area needed a gathering place. In 2014 they opened Iron Mug Coffee House in the building’s southern end at 1096 88th Ave W. July marks the two-year anniversary of Iron Mug’s opening, while the historic building that served as one of the first indoor shopping malls in the United States recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary.
The Iron Mug name was chosen as a nod to Morgan Park’s industrial beginnings. The coffee house features historic photos of the area and the old U.S. Steel plant. It’s also decorated with memorabilia from Morgan Park School and photos of every graduating class. Paul himself is an alum of the school and lives in Riverside.
The coffee shop and restaurant is a roomy space with a mix of seating options, including tables, booths and couches. It also has an outdoor patio and an extra room in the back that can be rented out for meetings or gatherings.
The Iron Mug is the only restaurant on a three-mile stretch of western Duluth between the Riverside Bar & Grill at Spirit Mountain’s Grand Avenue Chalet and Hugo’s Pizza II in Gary-New Duluth. Brandon’s wife Felisha manages the Morgan Park eatery with a focus on developing new offerings.
“We’re always working on expanding the menu, it’s always evolving,” she says. “Since we’re the only place around, we try to have a large variety.”
Paul says the coffee house is well known in the area. It sees a mix of regular customers from Morgan Park and neighboring areas like Riverside and Smithville. Felisha says fans come from farther afield too. One customer visits weekly from Woodland, ordering the same menu items each time: a flatbread pizza and a homemade caramel roll.
The menu has expanded considerably since opening and includes flatbread pizza, deli sandwiches, breakfast burritos, bagels, soup, salad, ice cream and baked goods. In the summer, Patsy Munger’s apple and strawberry rhubarb pies are available. The full menu of coffee drinks features java provided by Midwest Roasters in Hayward.
The hours have expanded, too. Iron Mug is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wine and beer are also available, including Bent Paddle Brewing options. Local musicians perform on weekends. Check the Iron Mug Facebook page for updates.
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