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Caydence Cradles the DIY Spirit in East Saint Paul

Three first-time entrepenuers channel coffee, records, and live music to fill a void

Photo by Stephan F. Kistler

Last updated on August 15th, 2019 at 01:26 pm

The Listing – Caydence Records & Coffee

  • Location
    • 900 Payne Avenue
    • Saint Paul, MN 55130
  • Website
  • Opened
    • October 2016
  • Size
    • 1,600 square feet – 60-70 people for the music venue
  • Seating
    • No built-in seating in the venue side, but benches along the front window and small tables on the sides in the coffee side of the location.
  • Food
  • Parking
    • Plenty of free street parking along Sims, York, and Wells Street.
Caydence web 06
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

The Blueprint

You’re almost always greeted by co-owners Mat Graske, Chad Medellin, or Gregg Schmitt when walking into Caydence Records and Coffee. Seeing the need in East St. Paul, these three first-time entrepreneurs opened Caydence in October 2016.

The Payne-Phalen neighborhood lacked coffee shops, music venues, and vinyl, so they figured they could fill the void. It sounds simple, but as they discussed, it wasn’t easy. As Mat shares, they were “initially laughed at by commercial banks saying, ‘you want to do WHAT on Payne Avenue’?”

As an infant endeavor they didn’t have any collateral, business acumen, or past history of running a business. It was a non-profit called NDC that backed their business financially, cultivating a complete DIY project on the inside. The hardware store down the street donated 35 pallets of wood, which they turned into their coffee bar, seating, and tables. After eight months of drywalling, paneling, installing a public restroom, and making it all handicap accessible, Caydence was born.

Caydence web 13
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Every nook of the venue’s 1,600+ square feet is filled with DIY projects the guys have done. The hanging lights are built custom for the original tin ceiling, the chair cushions are made from past coffee burlap bags, wall art is hung from pipes installed along the sides, and shelves hold stories from past shows, local partnerships, and signed memorabilia collected over the years. Elmo, the taxidermied moose head acquired from Mat’s father, oversees everything. Mat’s mother knits and embroiders the Caydence logo onto attire. The venue is a part of their families and you can feel the love brewed into the space.

Caydence web 05
Elmo, photo by Kathleen Ambre

Record Store Day is another draw for Caydence, for both music and vinyl. Since they are based as a coffee shop, they can open earlier than most stores, which gives them a head start and makes them a destination location for many collectors. RSD 2018 featured a full day of events, with a multitude of bands playing to 500-600 shoppers. Looking forward, the potential of the venue and area is bright with the announcement of a larger all ages location also along Payne.

Caydence web 03
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

The live music venue, which is cradled in the back of the store, is framed by a large, hanging barn door. Much like the record collection in front, it hosts a diverse range of events. From spoken word, metal-core, rap, acoustic, and a wide range of genres in-between, the intimate space has become an oasis in East Saint Paul.

On Sundays, they host a popular, family-friendly matinee show. They continue to encourage all-ages shows where musicians can cut their chops, learn the ropes, and just have fun. The room is fairly small, but the appeal is immediate. Watching a show at the front of the stage, with no bad sight lines, is a definite attraction. A small garage door sits along the back of the stage, making for easy access for load-ins and a nature window to the outside.

Caydence web 18
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Although smaller, the venue has already hosted some large talent. Johnny and Molly from Communist Daughter did a stripped-down set, and Mark Mallman hosted a solo piano record release. Back in September, they hosted an all ages, two-day hip hop festival featuring 19 MC’s. A typically diverse bill featuring Silverback Trio, Falcon Arrow, and Bitter Ghost garnered much love from our own staff.

Caydence web 17
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Caydence Records and Coffee is built on the foundation of the entrepreneur spirit and passion for music. Mat, Chad, and Gregg have filled a vacuum in Saint Paul by blazing forward and creating a resource for musicians to experiment. The DIY nature of the venue stands alone in the Twin Cities. It very much reminds me of the movie Three Men and a Baby, where different friends with different skill sets come together to nurture and care for something that they ultimately raise and introduce to the community. Although I can’t quite figure out who the Tom Selleck of the trio is, all of them are proud first-time parents of Caydence Records & Coffee.

Gregg Schmitt, Co-owner and Sound Engineer

Caydence web 02
Gregg Schmitt, photo by Kathleen Ambre

Much like the front of the store, Gregg Schmitt’s experience has been all hands on. His approach to handling sound is almost minimalist. The smaller space resonates very easily, so miking amps is unnecessary. The drums don’t require microphones either, although a Shure DMK57 is always added to the kick to help cut through the mix. The simple Mackie 1202VLZ4 mixer does limit the ability to soundcheck later bands, albeit as Gregg shares, it makes for fast turnover between bands. The dual hung EV mains covers the space easily, giving him plenty of volume to work with for quieter acts.

The real magic is in how he works with bands to educate them on how to self-balance instruments. Unlike Spinal Tap, not everyone can be at 11 onstage. It’s a skill that many musicians learn and need to perfect when playing in different venues. It’s the kind of impact and personal DIY experience that they will remember in the future. For younger bands especially, having Gregg in the trenches with them is a godsend.

Caydence web 12
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Insider Tips

The vinyl bin containing the staff recommendations catches my eye every time I’ve visited Caydence. Although I don’t typically know very many of their choices, they are always ready to talk music and share a bit about each album, which has led me to discover some wonderful music. I highly recommend digging through that section every time you’re there. As for food, you can’t go wrong with SugRush Donuts. Soft and chewy, they are the perfect companion to the House Miel Espresso (my favorite drink). If you plan on attending a show, get there early to shop or snag a spot in the venue. Since it’s smaller, you don’t want to be the last one in.

The Guest Room

by Evan Slack, writer for Music in Minnesota

Embassies 2.3 at Caydence Records
Embassies photo by Katherine Kurtz

My band Embassies performed at Caydence Records recently for our first headlining venue show. About 70 people attended, which is a perfect capacity for the intimacy of the space. 

White Line Darko, Molly Wakefield, Mari Mariella, Space Murder, and a surprise appearance from Erik Saxton of Runaway Ricochet all performed as well and absolutely killed it. The acoustic sets had no issue competing with the full bands in terms of volume, all thanks to Mat’s expertise running sound.

I had a lot of fun rocking out at Caydence. I enjoy playing smaller venues because I feel much more connected to the audience, and the audience feeds off of that and gets more into the music. The ambience was balanced and welcoming, and the lights and sound were run very professionally. It’s always nice when the person running the board knows what they’re doing.

Upcoming Events

Full schedule can be found here.

Music venues are the lifeblood of our community. By providing musicians the opportunity to showcase, collaborate, and experiment with their craft, venues are essential in their development. This series will continue to promote and support our local venues across Minnesota. Please see the previous articles below and go support local music. Our hope is these articles show the importance of supporting venues and places where creativity can thrive.

331 Club

The James Ballentine Uptown VFW Post 245

The Baroque Room

The Cedar Cultural Center

The Parkway Theater

The Warming House

Moon Palace Books


The Hook and Ladder Theater

Written by Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.


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