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Coffeehouse, photo studio to open downtown

July 1, 2011

City of Oconomowoc - New businesses will soon breathe life into a prominent downtown building.

Two new tenants are readying space inside the former On the Deck building, 124 E. Wisconsin Ave., and both businesses are helmed by women who grew up in the community and graduated from Oconomowoc High School.

Studios Etc.

Budding entrepreneurs may be interested in this concept, which offers an affordable option to help jump start their careers.

Owner Sarah Dorn said she plans to open Aug. 1.

"Basically, our concept is to fill a niche for entrepreneurs to build their business without expensive overhead," she explained.

"Therefore, they can use the space for as much or as little time as they need each month, at their own schedule," she added.

The 1,400 square feet of space provides great flexibility for renters.

One big draw, Dorn said, is the photo studio that is available for rent.

"We have professional lighting and several backdrops and props, state-of-the-art equipment for photographers to use. A lot of people don't have the money to pour into the equipment," she said.

All photographers need to supply is the camera.

"The studio's concept is to draw in many photographers to use the space," she said, adding that many have expressed an interest in renting the space.

Dorn said the space also offers a business center where you can meet with clients in a professional setting, Wi-Fi availability and an on-call tech person that can be called with questions.

The studio will also be used for fitness and art classes and meetings.

Space rental prices range from $35 to $50 an hour, depending on usage.

"Different prices are given for longer usage and can be negotiated. The more you use it, the more reasonable it is," she said.

Renters are given an access code to a private online scheduling system to block off the times they are using. They are also provided with an access code to the building.

"There is no need for an employee to let them in," Dorn said.

The hours of operation will be 5 a.m. to midnight, seven days of week.

Dorn brings her business experience to the concept she is promoting in other areas of the state as well.

"My background is in finance and banking, but I've always have had a passion for opening my own business. I thought this was a good niche for entrepreneurs without having a commitment to expensive overhead," she said.

"I grew up in Oconomowoc and went to Oconomowoc High School and then to UW-Eau Claire for business management and have been in banking and finance for the last 11 years," Dorn added.

This is her second venture with the concept. The first Studios Etc. opened two months ago in the Madison area.

Each location has a resident photographer associated with it.

"I would like to open a handful in Waukesha and the Third Ward. In the long term, we are planning on franchising this," she said.

People can also book the space for yoga or Pilates classes, meetings and events.

"We back up to a new coffee shop that is opening up, so you can finish your yoga class and go get a smoothie," Dorn said.

Roots Cafe and Coffeebar

With an expected opening date of Aug. 1, sisters Hilary DeVries and Heidi Laacsch are busy creating an environment that welcomes customers and named the cafe in honor of the family bond.

Offering beverages, light sandwiches and meals as well as a place to sit and relax, the cafe will be open seven days a week with hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Relying on their combined degrees in the areas of sociology as well as business and management, the sisters are turning a longtime dream into reality.

"We have thought about this for like, years, probably ever since I was even in college. We would always talk about how we were going to open a coffee shop someday," DeVries said.

The sisters expect to become involved in community causes and events.

"There's so much to do with the community, to help community members out. There's such a strong relationship there. We've always felt like we've always wanted to be involved in that," she added.

With the long-anticipated plan formed, the sisters had to find the appropriate space to open their dream business.

"The thing to do in Oconomowoc is walk around the lake, (but) then you get in the car and go meet people somewhere else," DeVries explained.

"That's why we wanted to open [a cafe] there. Oconomowoc does have some really cute places, but we want to give people a place near the lake to sit," she said.

DeVries, who has worked for years as a barista, said the cafe will allow for ample and comfortable seating and televisions so customers can catch sporting events.

"It will feel like a lounge area where you can meet a family member or a business client. We definitely need that in our community," she explained.

The cafe will also serve beer and wine and will offer community-style events like family game night.

DeVries said it will offer "a nice environment for adults to go to rather than having to go to a bar."

The menu will feature healthy options of sandwiches, soups and salads.

"We're going to go through a local company in Bayview called Anodyme. We also want to try and seek out local farmers to get their fruits and vegetables," she added.

The sisters have already started construction and are currently "just kind of tying the odds and ends together," DeVries said.

Staff writer Rachel Morello contributed to this article.

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