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
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
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.
“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
“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
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
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
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
Java Hut, 526 E. Wisconsin
Ave., has been an Oconomowoc institution. It
features Colectivo products and fresh food.
“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.