A loan from the city of Verona will help ensure “all is well” for the business moving into premises at 300 S. Main St.
Alice Good will take over the space which was vacated by the Tuvalu Coffeehouse in December. Like its predecessor, Alice Good will be a café-café, and will aim to be specialists in Colombian coffee.
Co-owner Ralph Stern has always been a coffee enthusiast, but how he ended up living in Colombia – a country where the coffee is often considered some of the best in the world – was more accident than design.
Stern was born and raised in the Madison area, but moved for college.
He had studied economics and after university in 2008 he decided to go to Paris for a summer in business school, and he loved it so much that he decided to stay there, until “just one year” becomes eight years.
He met his wife in France, but she was of Colombian origin and had just visited him. Stern moved with her to the South American country and lived there for five years.
“It was a happy accident that I was a coffee freak,” he said.
But while Stern and his wife, Laura Serrato, were happy in South America, the pandemic made them see life differently and they decided to move to the United States to be closer to Stern’s parents, who were having some health issues. health.
Returning to Wisconsin offered Stern the chance to pursue a new career.
“I was a geek and a coffee enthusiast for years, and people were like, ‘Why don’t you work in coffee? ‘” Stern said. “I always had an excuse – I already have a good job, the economic conditions are bad.”
Just when he finally decided to focus on his passion, the pandemic hit Colombia. Luckily, that was right before he and Serrato signed a lease to open a cafe there, so they started an online packaged coffee business instead.
When Stern and Serrato landed in the United States, they began looking for different spaces to open their dream business in Madison, Sun Prairie or Verona. Their timing coincided with the Tuvalu shutdown.
“Verona with its cycling culture, trails, nature and Epic – we were happy to take this space,” Stern said. “We want to not only provide great coffee, but make the space inviting where people want to hang out, want to stay – a neighborhood place. We really felt the location in Verona was head and shoulders above the rest we looked to be able to provide that. Icing on the cake, it was an old cafe. That should help put our stamp there. I hope the service we provide is as good or better than Tuvalu once we open in a few weeks.
The remodel is going well, Stern said — but as tends to happen with remodeling projects — there were some little surprises along the way, which pushed them back from opening.
“The carpets were quite old and other elements needed to be removed to make the space look and feel,” he said. “We’re not ripping everything, but we wanted some upgrades to make it a bit more modern, it had an old look.”
They are aiming for a summer opening, but were already hoping to be open.
Like its predecessor, the focus will be on coffee, but there will be plenty of free drinks, including organic teas from Rishi Tea and hot chocolate with cocoa sourced from Colombia. They also partner with Madison’s Bloom Bake Shop to offer a selection of donuts, scones, and other baked goods. The menu will be complemented by light dishes such as salads and sandwiches.
To start, the hours will be from morning to early afternoon. They won’t start in the evening, partly because it has been difficult to hire enough staff.
They are considering extending the hours at some point, perhaps to piggyback on nearby nighttime events like Music on Main or to offer their own live entertainment.
Since Serrato is a Colombian resident getting her green card, the pair were ineligible for many small business loans because they couldn’t meet the stipulations that 51% or more of the owners were US citizens.
“We found ourselves in difficult situations in the banks,” Stern said.
They were able to breathe a sigh of relief when they discovered a loan program offered by the city of Verona when they were looking for financing options in February. They applied in March and were approved in May to receive $75,000 under the city’s revolving loan fund.
“The purpose of the Verona Economic Development Commission Revolving Loan Fund is to provide capital funding to encourage business development in the city,” the city’s website says. “VEDC loans are intended to be used in conjunction with conventional private financing to fill financing needs and gaps and serve as an economic development tool to encourage business expansion, employment opportunities and investment in the community.”
City Administrator Adam Sayre told reporters he was aware of four revolving loans the city had disbursed in the past 10 years. In addition to Alice Good, the fund has helped Edelweiss Cheese, Verona Area Community Theater and Treehouse.
In terms of repayment for the city, it’s a regular loan with monthly payments and interest, Stern said.
City funding will be an extra, as Stern and Serrato have to invest more than the city.
“They provided capital to get us started,” Stern said.
And now, thanks to the help of the city, all is well at Alice Good. But who is Alice Good, apart from Stern and Serrato?
The name has a double meaning.
Stern’s grandmother was a Holocaust survivor who spent time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. She fled to the United States and started a new life under the pseudonym Alice Good, which she derived from the Yiddish-German phrase “alle ist gut” which means “all is well”.
With their funding a little more secure, now Stern and Serrato are looking forward to being able to open their doors in three weeks.
“Verona is a great community and we are happy to be part of it,” Stern said. “We are excited to open up and welcome the Verona community and anyone who wants to come.”