No java jive: Coffee shop Sassafras is brewing up business in new location

SASSAFRAS OWNER CARRIE Nolen holds up a set of keys for her coffee shop’s new home at 509 Mill St., Green Lake. Hannah Tetzlaff photo

by Hannah Tetzlaff

Several years ago before Guth’s Candy Shoppe was located at 509 Mill St., a barista got her start there at Sugar Lips, a coffee, bakery and floral shop.

Fast-forward a handful of years and that same barista, Carrie Nolen, is returning to the spot where her beginnings brewed.

After purchasing the building from Steve Guth of Guth’s Candy Shoppe, Nolen is relocating her almost five-year-old coffee business, Sassafras, to 509 Mill St., which aims to be open by Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s kind of funny that we’re kind of coming back full circle,” Nolen said. “I’m going back to the same building I started being a barista in, so that’s kind of fun; I like that idea.”

However, that idea wasn’t something she was thinking about a year ago. Nolen stated her decision to relocate was actually quite sudden.

“I wasn’t even thinking about moving at the time,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve been in business five years, everything’s great. This is wonderful. I feel good.’

“And then the opportunity just came up … like the universe was just talking and said, ‘Hey, this is for sale.’ And so … I went down there, checked it out and I thought, ‘Well, how do I not do this?’ So I decided right then and there, I’m going to do it, I’m going to figure out a way to do it [and] it’s happening.”

Nolen noted it was with a similar mentality and determination that she began Sassafras.

More Space, new food item

After viewing the building space at 509 Mill St., the major factor in Nolen’s decision was the space, especially in the kitchen area.

“It’s because the kitchen is bigger, and the space is bigger,” she said. “But mostly it’s because [with] the kitchen, I can produce more of what I’m already making. So I was selling out last summer daily, which is a good problem to have, but I would like there to be more so we’re not running out all the time.”

As part of the larger space, the building includes a second floor area that was used by Guth’s as a gift shop and bar. Nolen noted that would not be the case with Sassafras, explaining the second floor space will be for renting offices or apartments.

Another reason for the move besides the square footage was the proximity to the water.

“We’re closer to the water, so we’ll get a lot of foot traffic from people that are docking their boats at the marina or just milling around down there,” Nolen said.

While many details still need to be finalized, she stated the new location will offer the same specialty drinks and breakfast and lunch items as Sassafras always has with one new addition: ice cream.

Nolen explained every year since opening her shop, she adds one new item to the store’s repertoire, with Cedar Crest ice cream being this year’s addition.

Heidel is no concern

Since Nolen is relocating her store, her old space is available to rent or buy.

She wanted to give others the opportunity to rent the building to encourage more businesses to come to downtown Green Lake.

“It’s either for sale or for rent because I really love Green Lake and it saddens me that there’s so many empty storefronts downtown,” Nolen said. “So anybody who would even like to rent it for the summer, just to put something in here, retail or whatever they feel like would be a great sell, I would be all for it.”

One such empty storefront is the former Subway building, which closed due to declining sales, lack of help and because of the potential impact from Heidel

House’s May 20 closing.

However, Nolen doesn’t view Heidel House’s closure as a concern.

“I’m not [worried] because here’s my theory: Ripon does not have a Heidel House and they’re thriving,” she said. “Princeton does not have a Heidel House and they’re thriving. And I think Green Lake, we have the lake. I don’t know how much better life can be.”

She added the community needs to remain positive and keep its head up and if it can do that along with fill up empty storefronts “then I think we will be just fine.”

The Green Lake community can help make a difference by supporting and visiting local shops “because I think when other business owners or potential entrepreneurs see the positive impact that the local community has, they might be more apt to jump in there and take a risk,” Nolen said.

Despite being surprised at first by the move, her family and customers have been supportive, she stated.

“I can’t say enough how blessed I am with our following,” Nolen said. “We have the best guests; a lot of them have become good friends over the years …

And I couldn’t be happier or luckier.”