When your travels take you to Door County North-Liberty Grove, Ellison Bay, Rowleys Bay and Gills Rock--be sure to visit Gills Rock Coffee, 12625 Hwy. 42, Gills Rock.
The coffee shop is located inside a contemporary gray cedar-sided building that previously also was home to Char's Gallery Ten. This art gallery closed last year and has become the home for Char and Dewey Berg, who now focus on their coffee shop. Dewey has handled coffee shop operations since 2003, and Char started baking coffee shop sweets and more last year.
"I'm having grand fun baking. I do muffins and pies and coffee cakes and cookies. It's all homemade from scratch," said Char.
And this is a fun place to visit with a funky "Gills Rock: population 73" sign welcoming visitors on the door and a motorcycle inside. Art is still for sale here--each season one artist is featured in the coffee house gallery. Paintings of water, landscapes and more by Marcia Nickols, who resides in Ephraim, will be on display and sold this summer.
Now, the coffee shop is open weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. On May 3, hours expand to Friday through Monday. And starting May 24 and through Oct. 27, the Bergs will run the coffee shop seven days a week.
Here's more on Gills Rock Coffee and Char's transition from gallery owner to baker.
Q. What's a Harley Davidson motorcycle doing inside the coffee shop?
Char: Where else would one park a new Harley-Davidson '48. Dewey likes to look at it, polish it and show it to people. Besides, it matches the décor!
Q. How did the coffee shop get started?
Char: People coming into the gallery (established in Gills Rock in 1997) would smell coffee brewing (made in the Bergs' person kitchen). Dewey would offer them a cup. We realized (in 2000) we may have a market here; hence the coffee shop was born. Dewey and I did all the work ourselves and remodeled the space. Brian Linden (of Linden Gallery) sold us coffee shop equipment.
Q. What drinks are sold?
Char: Drinks available are espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, teas, smoothies--the typical coffee shop fare. Next to the regular house coffee, lattes seem to be the most popular. Dewey learned to make a fancy design with the foamed milk on top of the latte-customers are impressed!
Q. How does baking for the coffee shop differ from running the gallery?
Char: It has become fun. I found I have to plan in advance. I can't come down to the kitchen and say, "What will I make today?" I need to have the ingredients, a listing of things and a recipe book.
Q. So, you offer different sweets on different days?
Char: If I had to make chocolate chip cookies everyday day for six months, I would quit.
I pour through cookbooks and magazines to get recipes. Muffins using seasonal fresh fruits, which I get from a local market, rhubarb from a coffee-shop regular, savory scones, asparagus tarts, mini bacon cheesecakes, cookies, pies, coffee cakes, cakes. There's always something new and different.
Often, I may come in with a tray of something: a new recipe. And I ask the customers to try it for free and tell me if they think it is coffee-shop worthy.
Q. What has been people's reaction to your new baked goods?
Char: They love my stuff. They "really love me"-like Sally Field said. I now know the feeling artists get when people say, "I love your work." People say, "I love your peach muffins." I never had that immediate response to something.
Baking is a way to be a bit creative and bring big smiles to people's faces.
Q. What are your plans?
Char. I had the gallery for 25 years (10 years in Rockford, Ill. and 15 in Gills Rock). How long will I be doing the baking? I don't know. That's the joy of doing what I do. Will it be ten years? Two? I don't know. I don't like to put a limit on it. I'm kind of open. I'm just really open to things that are happening.