Cool Beans
Downtown brimming with local coffee options

By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff

June 18, 2015

OCONOMOWOC — It has been said there is nothing like a good cup of coffee.

Three Oconomowoc institutions are brewing up a strong cup and separating themselves from the big business of coffee chains.

Roots Coffeebar and Cafe, 124 E. Wisconsin Ave., Whelan’s Coffee and Ice Cream, 163 E. Wisconsin Ave., and Java Hut, 526 E. Wisconsin Ave., each brings their take on coffee to the Oconomowoc area, while creating a space that is unique to their institution.

Parker Nagill, manager at Roots, thinks the atmosphere of the coffee shop distinguishes it from the other shops in the area, but he recognized each shop has its characteristics that attract different kinds of customers.

Nagill said that Roots in particular separates itself from Starbucks because it feels “warm and welcoming.”

“Starbucks has kind of that corporate feel inside, where you kind of feel like they want you to move on so they can get more customers in,” Nagill said.


The owners of Roots, Heidi Laatsch and Hilary De Vries, are trying to promote downtown and get people to experience the city, Nagill said. Roots does that through an open mic night and live music offerings every Friday and Saturday.

Roots Coffeebar and Cafe, 124 E. Wisconsin Ave., has weekend entertainment offerings for people of any age.
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff

“You don’t have to go to a bar setting to hear music,” Nagill said. “All ages are welcome. It’s an option where you can bring your family and friends regardless of age.”

Nagill said that Roots is “one of the friendliest places to hang out, get work done or just talk to long lost friends.”

“You can get all of that while getting amazing coffee and food,” Nagill said.


Laurel Whelan, owner of Whelan’s, started the coffee shop 11 years ago.

The shop strives to follow its mission statement of being a place to be for all generations, Whelan said.

“It’s a place to build relationships, maintain relationships and create new relationships. That’s at the base of what we do there,” Whelan said. “We’re five generations strong in Oconomowoc. So the family has been here for many, many years. We have a good family atmosphere, but we cater to all generations.”

Whelan’s Coffee and Ice Cream, 163 E. Wisconsin Ave., strives to be a quintessential part of Oconomowoc for generations to come.   
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff

Whelan said the shop is always trying to change and innovate. Most recently, it is renovating the back patio to make it into a space to entertain, eat and relax outside.

After 11 years and multiple generations of the Whelan name in Oconomowoc, she has no plans to leave anytime soon, with the coffee shop being a part of her future.

“It’s just a great place to stop in and spend a moment in time,” Whelan said. “Whether it’s with somebody or with yourself. I look at it as a place to go where the stress of life is not found. I’m glad to be here in Oconomowoc, and I’m definitely happy to put another generation on the map for our family in Oconomowoc.”

Java Hut

Colleen Hansen, owner of Java Hut, has been in charge of the long-standing coffee shop for the last six years. Having worked there for over 20, Hansen took a simple approach to owning it: leave it how it is.

Hansen said compared to the other shops in Oconomowoc, Java Hut “isn’t very fancy.” She left it that way, though, because it has always been like that. She said her customers appreciate the décor even if some people on Yelp, an online food reviewing service, don’t.

Java Hut, 526 E. Wisconsin Ave., has been an Oconomowoc institution. It features Colectivo products and fresh food.    
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff

“You come in here once and tell us your name and we will know your name,” Hansen said. “It’s kind of like you’re coming home.”

Java Hut offers Colectivo coffee and fresh food, two things Hansen said help her create a loyal, returning customer base. She mirrored Nagill and Whelan when she said each coffee shop in Oconomowoc has a niche, adding that her customers are “the best customers you can imagine.”

All three Oconomowoc shops offer a different experience to the same universal idea, but just like there are numerous ways to make a cup of coffee, these three shops show there are numerous ways to run a successful coffee shop.