CARRIE NOLAN, OWNER of Sassafras in Green Lake, shows off one of the sweet treats she offers. Ian Stepleton photo
Sassafrass offers comfy setting, sweet treats to customers — right in downtown GL
by Ian Stepleton
When a customer settles into a chair at Green Lake’s newest downtown coffee shop, owner Carrie Nolan hopes that patron feels comfortable.
From the bright, sunny windows in the front to the cheery atmosphere inside, Sassafras aims to be somewhere a person can stop in for a few minutes — or a few hours — of relaxation.
“It’s a great place just to come and hang out. It’s cozy …,” Nolan said, noting she’s feels the same way when a new friend strolls in. “I just really like it here and I want people to know I am happy when they walk in the door …”
For Nolan’s customers, its a carefully crafted experience she offers at 524 Mill St.
From the game books on the tables to the bottomless cups of coffee, she’s worked hard to ensure a visit to Sassafras is one customers will want to repeat.
And it’s one she hopes to continue offering for some time to come — though it’s a far cry from her previous career.
“I was actually a nurse at the UW hospital in the cancer unit,” Nolan said of her 15-year career there before becoming a stay-at-home mom when she moved to Green Lake.
But, wanting to get out of the house a bit once she got here, she took a position at a now-closed coffee shop each of the past couple years — which fit like a glove with her other life passion.
“My husband and I always wanted to open a breakfast/lunch type shop,” Nolan said. “My husband likes to cook, I like to cook, and everybody likes our food. And everybody tells us, ‘You should sell this stuff!’ With our friends and family building us up … we wanted to [do this].”
But they had no idea that dream could turn to reality — not until recently, anyway.
“When I caught wind [that] coffee shop in town wasn’t going to reopen, I thought, ‘Maybe that’s what I should do,’” Nolan said. “I know a lot of the summer residents and yearly residents would miss it — and did miss it — and it was a needed [business].”
So, this past spring, Nolan and her husband took dreams to reality.
“We had a two-month window (end March),” she said, noting, “June 11 is when we opened. We basically remodelled the inside of the building and made it into a coffee shop.”
The site is a perfect location for a coffee shop, she believes.
“I love the windows; I really like the view with it being a nice, peaceful view over there,” she said, pointing to a view of the green in front of Town Square. “I wanted to give [this shop] a cozy, homey feeling, that you are always welcomed. I wanted it to be more of a family atmosphere [rather than] just an adult coffee shop, which is why I like the windows. It makes it brighter than just a regular coffee shop.”
Tasty treats also may make customers feel right at home as well.
Sassafras offers a variety of pastries for breakfast.
“My specialty is muffins and mini-bundt cakes, cupcakes, cookies, breads, cinnamon rolls,” Nolan said. “I’m trying to do stuff other people don’t have. I feel there is enough business for everyone in town; I want mine to be a little different.”
Of course, being a coffee shop, Sassafras offers plenty of caffinated (or decaf) drinks, too, made with Milwaukee-based Colectivo Coffee (formerly Alterra).
“[We have] lattés, espressos … And then we’ve made up drinks [for holidays],” Nolan said. “For the Fourth of July we had the ‘Liberty Latte,’ ‘Minuteman Mocha …’ We try to keep it fun. And we have all different flavor syrups, so people can get creative.”
For those who prefer something other than a coffee drink, Sassafras offers drinks such as ice teas and lemonade as well.
Prices for any of these drinks, she added, are comparable to other area coffee shops.
Nolan is happy to have customers linger and relax at her shop, too.
Sassafras offers “free Wi-Fi, which is a big deal,” she said. “A lot of people come in here from hotels or bed and breakfasts and use our Wi-Fi, and do their business, which is nice.”
So far, customers have responded well to Sassafras.
“[They’ve said] that they do feel like they are at home when they come in,” Nolan said. “I’ve actually had other business owners come in and tell me that they’ve heard comments and compliments from other customers, that they were at home, they were welcomed. So that was nice they shared that with me … So I feel like we are on the right track.”
But, as often must be asked of a Green Lake business, will it be around for the winter?
For Nolan, that’s an emphatic “yes.” She sees it as a way to give back to a community for which she’s grown fond.
“We love, love Green Lake. We do everything here. We go to the library here; we go to the post office here,” Nolan said, explaining she’s worked hard to come up with a business plan to sustain Sassafras through the lean months. “I’m actually working with the library right now. They have a reading program … [We work with the library so participants] can come here and get a free treat of their choice.”
She also sees Green Lake High School as an opportunity.
“With the high school students, there really isn’t anywhere they can go to study for finals,” she said. “So two weeks before finals, I do plan on being open until 10 o’clock …”
She’s looking to start a punch card to encourage customers to keep coming back as well.
“I love the local people. They are very supportive of me and I appreciate them all,” Nolan said. “I’d like to do something special for them, too.”
Bottom line? Nolan is happy to be able to serve her customers.
“I’m very excited. In fact, the other day I just said to my husband and a bunch of regulars … I just love my job; I really love it,” she said. “I miss nursing, I miss all the people but I feel like I get to use my brain in a different way …
“I know it sounds cheesy, but I really like it. I feel blessed.”
Sassafras is open daily, except Tuesdays, from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
For more information about Sassafras, stop in at 524 Mill St. in Green Lake, or call 920-807-0727.
Customers also may call ahead to place larger orders for pick-up as well.