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The chalkboard at the Caribou tucked into a nook within Minneapolis' Baker Center is usually filled with cute musings from employees and customers. On Tuesday, in big bold letters, it read, "We'll miss Bou!"

Caribou Coffee plans to shutter eight locations in downtown Minneapolis, citing fewer customers in the once-bustling office community.

The company would not comment on specific closure locations or dates but confirmed that Tuesday was the final day for the store within Target Plaza.

Caribou also said the downtown locations at U.S. Bank Plaza; Fifth and Washington; 11th and Nicollet; and the Lunds & Byerlys will remain open.

Caribou operates 25 Minneapolis locations, per its website; 12 are downtown, and eight are directly connected to the skyway system. Of the four downtown stores that will remain open, only U.S. Bank Plaza is in the skyway. The other three all have street access and parking available.

Once a thriving ecosystem of office workers each weekday, the skyway experienced a major drop in foot traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people working from home.

"As we continue to adapt to the changes in downtown Minneapolis traffic, realigning Caribou Coffee locations in this area was necessary," the company said.

Caribou said employees affected by the closings "have all been offered positions at nearby locations." It also said customers "will receive appropriate communication if a location they visit is closing," including updated hours on the app.

In the fallout of the pandemic, many could view any store closings as a barometer of downtown Minneapolis' overall health. As of December 2022, the area's average retail vacancy rate was nearly 35% — up from 10% to 20% in the downtown core before COVID-19, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate services firm.

"This hit our radar," said Steve Cramer, CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, who called the Caribou closings a "business decision."

"We're not seeing an overall trend. Coffee drinkers need not despair."

Anecdotally, Cramer said he's seen long lines at Starbucks' locations in the skyway during any given day of the work week. Cramer also said several new coffee shops are opening downtown.

Café Cerés, which has two locations in south Minneapolis, just opened at 100 Washington Square. Gray Fox Coffee, which started in 2018, is opening a third downtown Minneapolis spot next week in the LaSalle Plaza skyway. The two stores, however, are taking the place of other coffee shops that have closed, Penny's Coffee and Dunn Brothers Coffee, respectively.

Around 2 p.m. Tuesday, two Caribou Coffee locations just a five-minute skyway walk apart depicted very different situations.

The coffee shop in U.S. Bank Plaza had five people waiting for their afternoon pick-me-ups, two more ordering at the register and another working on a laptop at one of the four inside tables. Several others were perched at seating just outside of the store in a busy skyway thoroughfare.

Meanwhile, only two patrons were at the Caribou in the Baker Center — one who used rewards points for a beverage and the other who wanted a free refill of drip joe. The last call for caffeine fixes at that location is March 17.

The chalkboard there noted its dwindling days: "We appreciate you & hope to see you at our U.S. Bank Plaza location."