Getting to know: Nolen looks back on 10 years running Sassafras | New


Celebrating 10 years of Sassafras coffee, left to right, Carrie Nolen, Beck Alvord and Gus Alvord.

In her 10th year in business as the owner of Sassafras Coffee in downtown Green Lake, Carrie Nolen looks back on her experiences.

Sassafras Cafe is known as the ‘Green Lake Lounge’ by locals and Nolen’s favorite part of the business is his ability to socialize with numerous customers on a daily basis.

To learn more about Sassafras, The Green Laker caught up with Nolen.

Here is the conversation:


Carrie Nolen serves Beck Alvord, 6, left, and Gus Alvord, 8, coffee.

Q. How long have you owned the Sassafras cafe in downtown Green Lake?

A. This is our 10th summer. When we opened it was a high risk venture. But I decided to go. The average cafe in Green Lake was about two and a half years old and then it ended up closing, so we passed that. I’m quite proud of it.

I thought to myself, “This is crazy. Should I do this? Is it worth it?” These were the doubting questions and then I just reassured myself. Also, I had very good support from my family and friends who helped me said, “You know, you can do it.” I just went there.


Colectivo Coffee is a popular brand to buy from Sassafras Coffee.

Q. What prompted you to create a place like this?

A. Well, I knew the cafe that was already there was going to close and this owner actually encouraged me to sue it. That got the ball rolling and within four months I had a coffee. I actually looked at Ripon first because Mugs wasn’t there at the time, or they were trying to move.

I ended up deciding that Green Lake really needed a cafe because I knew a lot of people and repeat customers just from being there before, who wanted a new store to open downtown.

Q. What does a typical day look like in your shoes?

A. Busy. We get up early and usually stay a bit after and there are all the business details going on behind the scenes after work. So it’s just a busy day. I’m still at the cafe cooking and making coffee and lots of other behind-the-scenes work.

My favorite part of being there all day most days, however, is seeing and visiting all the locals for the day. There is a group of retirees who come almost every morning with whom I love to talk and chat.


Sassafras Coffee has many local faces and Carrie Nolen appreciates her staff.

Q. What are you most looking forward to this summer with the company?

A. I’m looking for a little more growth by adding breakfast items that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.


Sassafras Cafe has many items for purchase beyond caffeinated beverages.

Every year I add one more thing that I think I can handle and now we’re down to breakfast burritos and different baked goods.

I make Amish donuts on Saturdays in the summer. So every year we just have one more thing I do. Besides, I make soup in the winter.

I have great staff. It’s so helpful when they can be up front and I can be in the back.

I look forward to continuing to follow the locals as well. I can’t wait to visit people because I feel like COVID is now over. I look forward to having more interaction with my people.

Q. What is your favorite activity to do in Green Lake during the summer?

A. Anything on the water. All I need is sun and water, whether it’s on the boat or not, it doesn’t matter. I even like the beach.

Really anything to do with water and I’m all for it. I’m very drawn to the water, that’s one of the reasons I moved from Madison to here.


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