|Name Water House Foods
Business Type Coffee Shop, Bistro, Music and Art Gallery
Location Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Owner/Manager Shawn and Ray Rediske
Products Sold & Niche Developed
Owners Shawn and Ray Rediske offer a piece of city life to rural Wisconsin. Their store represents a modern bistro business approach, while supporting local farms within the area.
How it got started
Neither Shawn nor Ray had experience in the restaurant industry before opening Water House Foods in Lake Mills. A recently retired resident, who wanted to start baking, started using the basement of the local activity center to start his cooking endeavors. He quickly realized that he would rather spend his retirement doing something more relaxing, which opened up an opportunity for the owners to use the basement as an incubator for their Coffee Shop.
Who it serves
The coffee shop brings people to downtown Lake Mills for tastings, baking classes, business meetings, concerts, open mic nights, art shows, book signings and monthly fundraisers. The cafe partners with local businesses to sponsor, support, and coordinate local events.
In addition, Water House Foods partners with several farmers markets, which broadens their market segment beyond Lake Mills.
The café occupies a building originally built in 1853, which provides character to the historic downtown of Lake Mills. The business originally started by renting out retail space, while using the activity center as their kitchen. Eventually the owners wanted to own their own building and purchased two adjoined properties that sat vacant.
Many improvements were needed in order to make the space suitable for their coffee shop. One building is used for their kitchen and store space, the other building is being rented out as retail space. The owners came across asbestos and insulation problems when the renovation began. They also needed innovative solutions for the large amount of flooring needed to fill the 2,500 square foot building.
Their project was mostly funded by loans. They were rejected originally by a different bank, but are really grateful for the support they found in another local bank. They attribute a part of their success to the bank’s willingness to take a chance on them as a business and also their continuous support through the years.
Reviewed by Emily Lutz, UW-Extension CCED