Foodie Finds: pause - an extraordinary coffeeshop in the Wisconsin Dells

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Jun 01, 2009 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

When we were in the Wisconsin Dells earlier this month, we stumbled upon a GREAT coffeeshop, called pause. We ducked in out of the rain, beckoned by the enticing aroma of the coffee. It was a haven - beautifully lit, a gorgeous setting, with some customers sitting on the comfy couches, softly playing music. I had a chance to talk with Bianca Richards, the owner, for a minute before more customers came in. Not only was the coffee fair trade, and the setting unique, but Biana just glows with peacefulness and purpose. Energetic and friendly, she makes pause so much more than a coffeeshop - she has created a haven for both locals and seasonal workers and tourists. We've written about pause in a Foodie Finds here before, but we wanted to get more information about pause, her ideas for community, food, and more. We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Bianca about pause. Here's what she had to say...

 

pause coffeeshop, Wisconsin Dells

 

 

NOTE: Dells Pause is now closed. ALAS! 

 

WE: Please tell us about your coffeehouse, pause...

BR: I created pause in Wisconsin Dells, my hometown. This project is the result of five years of dreaming of opening a bar, since I found myself coming out of my shell in college at Rick’s American Cafe in East Lansing, Michigan. As I grew older, I naturally grew a bit more mature and sophisticated, and the crazy college bar dream morphed into more of a relaxed coffee, beer, wine idea. When I moved home to the Dells, I really thought a place like pause was lacking here. I wanted a place that offered an option to the traditional bar scene. I wanted a place where neighbors and tourists alike could come and pause in this crazy isolated life we all seem to lead. I wanted a place where people could stop, listen, breath and connect. And it’s working. I smile every day watching neighbors that live two miles from each other meet for the first time and talk about politics or family or new ideas for the town. I smile every day watching summer workers from Bulgaria or Thailand learn new English words from a bartender, a teacher, a waitress. I smile watching my friends have the option to drink coffee or tea or juice while the friend sitting next to them tries a great new microbrew from Wisconsin or a glass of wine from South Africa.

Sometimes I have trouble remembering the three months from hatching the exact “let’s do it” idea of pause in a hot tub with friends to opening the door on September 9th, because everything so serendipitously came together. I found nineteen of the exact water glasses I wanted at Goodwill, next to a $15 clock that I refurbished and has become the main focal point of the room. I found the exact couches I had been dreaming of as soon as I stepped off the escalator at Ikea. The wall colors, the plants, the books, the wine glasses, the ideas, the people...everything literally came together perfectly.

 

pause coffeeshop, Wisconsin Dells - clock

 

Forty years ago there was a coffeehouse just through the alley, called The Jawbone; a real 1968 Wisconsin Dells Coffeehouse. My mother helped contribute to the newsletter. I found these newsletters in November, two months after pause was born. The newsletters speak of equality, real discussions instead of surface-speak, being able to be yourself, being welcomed into the doors, really loving your neighbor, and music and art being a way of life. I found, in one of the happiest moments of my entire life, that all of the things that The Jawbone emphasized are happening here at pause. I watch it every day. It’s very very satisfying; it’s this feeling that is the only real and tangible reward of owning a small business.

 

 

WE: How can a community business that emphasizes fair trade, locally-sourced, organic ingredients thrive in a tourist town?

BR: I have to say that as soon as I opened in September, I was impressed with how much soy milk I go through. Now, I’m impressed with the interest in freshly squeezed juices. I’m also a recent raw foodist, and I really take joy in talking about it with my customers, because I’ve found that people are, in fact, interested in making changes to their hectic, unsettling, frantic lives. Despite the negativity and doubt about a business like this succeeding in the Dells, that even friends cast my direction when I opened, I believe and have seen and heard signs and words that people are interested in health, people are interested in community, people are interested in making changes. People react positively to fair trade, organic, biodegradeable, recycling. They react whether they are locals here or tourists from Chicago or travelers from Ethiopia. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether I use cheaper traditional plastic or not. It’s about doing the right thing, so I’ll choose the biodegradeable cups made from corn. And I’ll order kale from the local organic farmer across town even if I have to drive ten minutes to get it. That’s it. And that’s what I, and therefore my business, am all about.

 

pause coffeeshop, Wisconsin Dells  - beer

 

 

WE: Please share your new menu...

BR: In addition to the fair trade organic espresso and coffee drinks, I expanded my menu with high quality syrups about three months ago. New flavors include banana, strawberry, almond, etc., which seem to be pretty popular. At the same time I added a few new cold drinks, such as Italian Cream Sodas and Smoothies. These have been a hit. More recently, because of my own personal life changes and attention to diet, I decided to add freshly squeezed juices. I currently offer four named menu items or customers are welcome to create their own juices. I am blown away at how popular juices are and by the great feedback. People just feel better when they are drinking something as healthy as carrot/ginger/beet juice, and I'm happy to see that the most traditional Wisconsin brat eaters are enjoying these juices just as much as the yoga health nut.

My newest project is to expand my food items, and I am going to do this by jumping right into crepes. I almost went with to-go sandwiches, but my passion lies in beverages, not food. However, something about the romantic, niche, vogue notion of crepes really caught my attention. I’m making a crepe station right now, and the idea is to offer one savory and one sweet crepe, and to rotate the offerings weekly. They range from nutella/banana to portabella/goat cheese/red pepper. This fall I am going to focus on playing with my hot chocolate menu, using cayenne or peanut flavors, and expanding my hot tea selection.

 

pause coffeeshop, Wisconsin Dells

 

WE: What sorts of musical and artistic events are on the schedule for pause?

BR: Right now I am gearing up for Taste of the Dells, right outside of my door June 6th and 7th. It’s a great event, and I am offering live music on my stage from noon to 10pm. After that, Kevin Andrews, an acoustic singer-songwriter, will be playing here from 8pm-10pm on Friday, June 26th. More music events will be scheduled for June, July and August; I keep an updated events schedule on my website. Thursday nights I offer an open mic/jam session at 8pm, and I also keep a house guitar and bongos around; pretty much any day and time is open jam here!

I have a local artist of the month, too, and I’ve been really impressed by the wide array of talent. I was worried at first that I might get all photography or all oils, but the range has been incredible, from realistic oil pencils to acrylics to watercolors. I’m really impressed by the huge amount of local talent focused on music, art and writing that exists here. And creatives somehow seem to find pause!

 

pause coffeeshop, Wisconsin Dells

 

WE: Thanks so very much, Bianca. Your words are just as inviting as pause is. We're already making plans to head back to the Dells - just to come to pause and sit back and enjoy the ambience. We've recommended pause to everyone we know. You're doing a fantastic job! (and, we LOVE crepes).

For more information, please see:

http://dellspause.com/