Brewing success
Fiddleheads has grown with coffee culture

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

July 25, 2017

 Fiddleheads’ owner Mike Wroblewski credits his employees for setting the cafés apart in a competitive coffee business.
Photo by Mark Justesen

THIENSVILLE — Late one afternoon last week, Fiddleheads owner Mike Wroblewski briefly sat in the Fiddleheads Thiensville location surrounded by racks of cooling bakery, the sound of coffee production in the back and a small team of employees steadily going about the business of the day.

“It’s because of these guys,” he said, gesturing around to the handful of employees going about their shifts. “That’s why we are so successful. The coffee business is hyper competitive, and there are many places that serve good coffees. These guys are what set us apart.”

Clearly the community embraces Fiddleheads Coffee, as Wroblewski was told that his business had received multiple nominations for and was ultimately the recipient of this year’s Small Business of the Year award from Ozaukee Economic Development.

“When my sister, Lynn, and I first started in 1996, there were only three locally owned coffeehouses in the county: Java House in Cedarburg, Java Dock in Port Washington and our first location in Thiensville,” he said

 Customers at Fiddleheads in Thiensville can watch the Milwaukee River as they enjoy food and drinks on an outdoor patio.
Photo by Mark Justesen

Lynn Wrobeleski, who died in 2011, had returned home from living in Colorado. She had worked in coffeehouses there, and decided she wanted to open one of her own back home. Six months later, Mike joined his sister in the business. As of this year, Fiddleheads Coffee has grown to five locations.

“Our shared goal was to create a place where people would come in for coffee and other good quality products, and leave a little happier than when they came in,” he said.

Over time, they were joined by Lynn’s future husband, Steve Klimczak, who started out playing guitar in the coffeehouse and ultimately became the roastmaster for the business.

“We had started by getting our beans from other local roasters, but we realized it made much more sense to bring that into our business,” he said. “Steve learned the trade from master coffee guru Willem Boot in California, and we started quietly introducing our own blends, which people really responded well to.”

Wroblewski noted that coffee itself is a very shippable product, which helped them expand the retail side of their business. Additionally, the business has come full circle, as Fiddleheads now supplies its own coffee to cafés, restaurants and even companies for their in-house coffee consumption.

Though Fiddleheads Coffee also initially relied on outside purveyors for its bakery products, in 2011 it established its own bakery operation in Thiensville, which supplies the bakery to all of its locations. Wroblewski is pleased with how Fiddleheads has grown and will continue to grow.

“We haven’t been out to conquer the world by franchising or by growing on some set schedule,” he said. “But we definitely do want to continue to grow our business and our organization.”

The next step? Menomonee Falls, where the company recently announced plans to open its sixth coffeehouse in a circa-1893 building.

“We like to own our properties, but we have acquired existing coffeehouses over the years and ‘Fiddleized’ them,” he noted. “We’re really excited about this next location.”

He also said that customers should keep watching for new technology that will enhance their ordering experience.

“We do have other irons in the fire, too,” he said with a smile. “We’re always looking for that next big step.”
 

Businesses of the Year

Ozaukee Economic Development recently announced its 2017 Businesses of the Year. The annual award, which started in

2013, recognizes businesses that have seen significant business and job growth and are strong community partners.

This year’s honorees are:

Small business – Fiddleheads

Mid-size business – Exacto Spring

Large business – Kleen Test

The businesses will be recognized Sept. 26 at OED’s Business of the Year/Economic Forecast Breakfast at the Ozaukee Pavilion on the county fairgrounds in Cedarburg.