Coffee Corner Bistro’s story starts in 1999 with simple coffee and espresso. Below you can learn how we became Kewaskum’s go-to coffee spot…
1895 – Kewaskum is Incorporated.
Chief Kewaskum is known as the namesake for this town, as he was rumored to live and be buried here while the area was in the hands of the Potawatomi Indians. The name “Kewaskum” is a Potawatomi word for “retracing his steps.”
Fond du Lac Avenue, Kewaskum WI – 1847. Photo courtesy of Kewaskum Historical Society.
Front exterior of the L. Rosenheimer store on Fond du Lac Avenue, Kewaskum, WI – 1912. Photo courtesy of Kewaskum Historical Society.
20th Century Multipurpose Corner
In the history of Kewaskum, 102-104 Main Street served many roles to earn its legacy among locals. It was a tavern, boarding house, host site for livestock sales, family home, pharmacy, soda fountain, apartment rental and coffeehouse. Throughout the early years of Jess’s life, the storefront was vacant. Driving through the intersection, all one could see were decades old jade plants that enjoyed the bright southern exposed windows.
1990s – Jess meets Coffee
Jess and her mother, Cindy, became excited about the coffeehouse movement that began in the area in the early to mid 90’s. They would spend time together traveling to Hartford (Perk Place), Slinger (Black Cat) and West Bend (St. Somewhere) to have special coffees and enjoy the often quirky, vintage vibes of these establishments. The idea of bringing this experience closer to home started brewing into a dream. They thought the empty corner building would be the perfect spot, but it wasn’t for sale… (yet).
Coffee Corner Bistro storefront.
Summer, 1998 – For Sale
One summer afternoon in 1998, while passing through town, Jess and Cindy noticed a realtor sign in the front window… and the listing agent was their long-time family friend! Thus began a year-long process of demolition, renovation and lots of planning! Jess was in college and working for her father at the time, so all the start-up credit goes to her mom. Jess’s mom finalized plans with engineers, local building inspectors, health inspectors, accountants, bankers and various government agencies. It truly was a labor of love.
January 9, 1999 – We’re Open!
Coffee Corner Bistro opened its doors serving nothing but brewed coffee and basic espresso drinks. While some excitement was shared, there was also gossip of community doubt. How could something so “urban” survive in a small midwestern town like Kewaskum? Those first few years in business were not easy. Jess and her family worked tirelessly to adapt, to bring new ideas to the cafe and to become something this town would savor, rather than scoff at. Bakery was the first logical addition to the menu offerings. A rotating soup and sandwich menu soon followed (which was then faxed to local businesses).
Cindy (Jess’s mom) and Connie in front of Coffee Corner Bistro entrance.
2004 – Jess Comes Home
Jess moved back home and took over running the cafe full-time from her mom. This time of Jess’s life was both exciting and intimidating.
2006 – New Ownership
Jess and her husband, Tony, purchased the building and cafe from Jess’s parents. With much prodding, Tony convinced Jess to expand the lunch menu and hours.
Snapshot of Jess and Tony just before they purchased Coffee Corner Bistro.
Kewaskum Fire Department responding to the fire at Coffee Corner, 2007.
July 3, 2007 – Lightning Strikes
Less than a month after implementing new changes, Coffee Corner Bistro’s building was struck by lightning. Jess and Tony had a six-month-old baby, two displaced renters and a building in ruins. They hadn’t even owned the business for a year.
After settling paperwork, Jess and Tony quickly got onto general-contracting the restoration process. They had to completely remove the 100+ year old roof and rafters by a crane operator and a five-man contractor crew. In just one day, the original roof was removed, the new trusses were put in place, sheeted and tar papered.
October 8, 2007 – We’re Open (Again!)
Coffee Corner Bistro reopened roughly three months after the fire. It took many months after the re-opening to complete the renovation of the second story of the building, which had to be completely gutted and rebuilt.
While the fire seemed a devastating blow at the time, it was truly a blessing in disguise. To commemorate the lightning strike, Coffee Corner Bistro had a local craftsman create the inlaid wood flooring medallion by the front door depicting an antique coffee grinder with two lightning bolts.
Photo of Jennae Beaupre holding chia pudding.
Since the fire, Coffee Corner Bistro has seen growth every year. They weathered recessions, housing market crashes and a pandemic. There were hundreds of employees that brewed espresso and served loyal customers. Jess met pregnant mothers, celebrated the births of their babies, hired their babies and watched their babies grow into wonderful adults. The cafe has been a second home to thousands of students and families, both young and old.
The first ten years of business, it was common to see elderly ladies meet up with friends to reminisce over coffee and share stories of their youth. These were the same ladies that grew up sharing a float at the soda fountain housed here in the 30’s and 40’s. Now, Coffee Corner Bistro has had the same impact on a whole new generation of young people.
We love being a part of the fabric of our community. A place that is welcoming, nourishing and cherished by its patrons.
Cheers to 24 years in business!
Coffee Corner Bistro
102 Main Street
Kewaskum, WI 53040