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A new coffee shop is now open in northern Door County

Cuesta Coffee opened its doors in Ellison Bay the day after Christmas

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December 27, 2023

ELLISON BAY – All Tyler Abts wanted for the day after Christmas was to open his coffee shop.

His new venture, Cuesta Coffee, officially opened its doors Dec. 26 at 12625 WI-42 in Ellison Bay.

Starting small and taking things slow, Abts said the shop will continue to work on the space and menu throughout the winter months, as he navigates the first few months of operation.

“I’m excited and grateful to have this opportunity to share an inclusive space rooted in quality, collaboration, and above all, love, with a community and land that has provided so much to me over the years,” he said.

Meant to be
For as long as he can remember, Abts, a former event manager, said he has aspired to own his own business – going even as far as brainstorming names and business concepts, tucking them away for later.

So, when Abts had the opportunity to open his first business in Door County, he said he immediately took the plunge.

“This opportunity fell into my lap in late summer, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “So, what was intended to be a winter away to hike, became working to turn the dream of owning a coffee shop in Door County into a reality.”

Before moving to Door County, Abts, who is originally from Manitowoc, said he primarily worked in the craft beer industry at two breweries in Minneapolis, Sociable Cider Werks and 56 Brewing.

Despite years in the brewery industry, Abts said he’s always enjoyed a cup of Joe over a glass of brew.

“I’ve always enjoyed coffee and the coffee culture,” he said. “A years-long dream of opening a coffee cart in northern Door County serendipitously transitioned into acquiring the coffee shop space.”

It was that appreciation for a cuppa and northern Door County that Abts said nudged him to make a move, along with his dog, Sonny, and open up Cuesta Coffee.

Often spending time in Door County – previously working as a kayak guide and at Shoreline Restaurant – Abts said he’s always enjoyed the peninsula’s unique geology, the solitude, the people and access to parks and the water.

“It was a no-brainer to plant deeper roots in the area by becoming a business owner,” he said.

A name inspired by nature
After securing his business space – which was formerly Gills Rock Coffee – Abts said it was time for a name and looked at his love of nature for inspiration.

“Much of my spiel revolved around the remarkable Niagara Escarpment – the land formation on which Door County sits,” he said.

Abts said a little-known fact about this particular escarpment is that it is considered a “Cuesta,” which is the term for a land formation with a gradual slope on one side and a steep slope on the other. 

“When toying around with name ideas for the shop, this term reemerged and it stuck,” he said. “It’s a fun word to say. I’m a sucker for alliteration and this ‘Cuesta’ is at the center of Door County’s incomparable beauty after all.”

Investing in a dream
When it comes to making an entrepreneurial dream come to life, Abts said he can attest that the planning process was extensive. 

“Learning about business ownership in a new-to-me industry while building out a space that was in desperate need of some TLC has been a lot of learning on the fly and asking industry friends for input on best practices,” he said. “(I also) leaned on friends and family for some support on bigger build-out projects.”

Abts said his venture is largely self-funded – therefore, from a budget standpoint, he is spacing out his plans.

“What folks will see on opening day is only a portion of my grand vision for the space and product offerings,” he said.

Financials aside, Abts said another part of planning included building connections with other businesses in the region – a part of the process he said he sincerely valued.

“It’s been a fulfilling process to lean into connections – new and old – and collaborating with folks from my past and building new connections with businesses, artists and organizations here in Door County,” he said.

Abts said he credits his primary roaster, Stepwise Coffee Roasters – owned by a former coworker from Minneapolis – and his former colleague and good friend, Matt Erickson, with helping bring the Cuesta vision full circle.

A space to enjoy
Abts said he has worked to create a space he hopes his customers will enjoy. 

“I hope the vibe is welcoming, sophisticated, casual and in alignment with the natural world around it,” he said.

Abts said he wants to encourage a strong focus on the experience itself.

Cuesta Coffee – located at 2625 WI-42 in Ellison Bay – opened its doors the day after Christmas. Submitted Photo

Cuesta’s carefully curated menu of coffees, non-coffee beverages and light bites, he said, offers something for everyone.

“Customers will appreciate the variety – from different roasters to the ever-evolving menu,” he said.

Abts said he will focus on quality and making things from scratch, plus sourcing ingredients from local food purveyors – with items added and rotated seasonally.

Along with fresh brews and light fare, Abts said Cuesta will host different music artists and have a collection of rotating art on the walls for all seasons.

“I plan to start dialing up a variety of special events – think markets, music, pop-up dinner events – after I better hone in on the day-to-day operations of this new venture,” he said. 

Customers will have a space to enjoy no matter the season, as Abts said he plans to remain open all year.

He said he will use this first winter as a telling metric to assess how business will look in the future. 

Abts said he hopes his business will become a place for the community to connect.

“It’s about being a place people can rely on to be there for them, with good product and camaraderie, time after time,” he said.

Further, Abts said he hopes the experience gives patrons a reason to stop back into Cuesta next time they’re in the area.

“I am grateful for the support so far and the opportunity to be a part of the next wave of new business owners in Door County,” he said, “I can’t wait to welcome everybody with the same warmth they have shown me over my time calling Door County home.”

For more information on Cuesta’s menu, hours and special events, visit the shop on Instagram or Facebook.

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