The charms of a small town are often the siren song for urbanites looking for a little change of pace. Especially if those urbanites are looking to raise a family. But instead of pulling the out-of-towners straight into the rocks, it may just pull them into a coffee desert, a place where no specialty coffee shops have yet to put up stakes. And this is the story arc Ryan and Stephanie Baughn found themselves in when they and their four sons moving from Seattle, Washington to Stoughton, Wisconsin.
Coming from a world-class coffee city, the Baughns did what any reasonable person would have done: start a coffee shop of their own. At the urging of friends and family, they fulfilled a lifelong dream and opened Wildwood Coffee. With an eye for design and good coffee, the Baughns DIY'ed their way into a lovely space, complete with a fully customized La Marzocco Linea/Strada Frankenspresso machine. It's definitely a family affair at Wildwood. Thankfully, they have four baristas in training.
As told to Sprudge by Ryan & Stephanie Baughn.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Stoughton, WI is a small town 30 minutes south east of Madison, WI with a charming historic walkable Main Street. My wife and I moved here from Seattle a little over 13 years ago, drawn to the charms of small town living and found it to be a pretty ideal place to raise our four boys. Stoughton is a lovely riverside community and has everything we need with the exception of a good coffee shop. This past fall we decided that it was time for us to open a place, and this new cafe is the realization of 19 years dreaming. When the boys were younger, baking and cooking with Stephanie, people would tell us “you should open a family cafe” and it is incredible that here we are doing it. The boys range in ages from nine to 15 and they are helping out as we get Wildwood open, learning to be dishwashers, bakers, baristas, entrepreneurs—a true family business. Our intent with this project is to create a space for our community that is comfortable and inviting, a place where people can gather and connect, with a backdrop of high end coffee and food.
My wife is helming the design build out and the space is the perfect intersection of refinement and rebellion. Every object, every piece of art, every vintage plate is telling a story… in short, we view Wildwood as our love letter to Wisconsin.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
This used to be a small hair salon (about 860 sq. ft.) and the space was divided into small separate rooms with dark green and brown paint and a dropped acoustic tile ceiling. The first thing that made us think the space had potential was all the natural light pouring in the three large Southeast facing windows. Winters in Wisconsin can be long, cold, and dark, and for anyone who has seasonal affected disorder, natural light can be a life saver. We immediately knocked out all the walls to let in as much light as possible. We designed a small but efficient kitchen space, adding vintage windows from a 1930s cottage up north to again, let sunlight into the kitchen space. Stephanie wanted the main wall to be a strong focal point and chose William Morris wallpaper that felt representative of our love of nature and the outdoors. The condiment area and retail wall is ship lathe board painted a deep navy blue, redolent of Wisconsin storm skies; a large antique gilt mirror from up north reflects more light and makes the space seem larger; an antique side board buffet repurposed from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore holds cream, sugar, lids, napkins. All the shelves are reclaimed boards from an old barn in Columbus that we sanded and stained. To keep it from feeling too period piece, Steph kept the rest of the space white and full of plants. After ripping up the pergola flooring, we decided to keep the concrete floor underneath as is, appreciating the juxtaposition of the rough floor against the polish of everything else (and a subtle nod to our family of skateboarders!). We replaced the acoustic tile with beautiful hammered tin that is still made in the US in Florence, Alabama. As much as possible, Stephanie used eBay, thrift stores, antique stores, and the ReStore to fill the space with things that have history, that tell a story, and that also fulfills our desire to help the environment by reuse and repurpose rather than buy new.
What’s your approach to coffee?
We think coffee is special, but we are setting out to normalize the specialty cafe experience. With the help of top notch Wisconsin roasters (Ruby, Kickapoo, JBC) we are offering a combination of consistency and adventure. We have a fantastic blend called Creamery and this will be our main espresso blend to start. We'll rotate coffees for single origin espresso and batch brew options throughout the summer, offering batch brew and flash brewed/iced coffee. We won't offer pour-overs, but we are developing coffee shot recipes since we have the ability to drop flow rate and pressure to whatever we want on the La Marzocco conical valve head of our espresso machine. We may roll these out late Summer or early Fall.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
I built a custom machine based off a La Marzocco Linea frame from the year I graduated high school (Shorecrest ‘94), but I incorporated Strada AV tech and internals and custom exterior materials. The hickory surround is Japanese Shou Sugi Ban, or charred wood, with a custom ceramic “moon phases” piece from San Francisco artist Jenifer Lake. It matches our matte black Victoria Arduino Mythos grinder, Mazzer, Ditting, and our Curtis brewer, which looks about as sleek as a bulky brewer can look! I guess you could say all our coffee equipment fills our aesthetic vision of being a little bit unexpected and unpredictable and we like it like that!
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We spent February-May building and hit our preview open date of 5/18/18. We'll open for regular hours by mid-June 2018.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Jamie Stanek built our beautiful countertops featuring custom cutouts to my specs. Jenifer Lake is a San Francisco artist (and our dear friend) and she made the custom black matte “moon phases” piece that graces the back of our espresso machine.
Thank you! We are excited to introduce Stoughton, WI to the world of coffee!
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