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Emerging Entrepreneurs: Wonder Play Cafe – where community, family and fun come together

Fond du Lac entrepreneurs aim to create a welcoming connecting space for parents, kids, community

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February 21, 2024

FOND DU LAC — As a parent herself, Katie Oestreich said she recognizes that parenting can be a beautiful journey, but it can also feel isolating at times.

Speaking from first-hand experience, she said finding a place to go where you can have adult conversations while your children connect and play with others their age can be challenging.

That’s where Wonder comes in — a play cafe designed to help people and children feel connected on a variety of levels.

Oestreich and sister-in-law Tristin Holzmann opened Wonder in downtown Fond du Lac at the end of last year.

The owners said Wonder offers a cozy and appealing setting where people of all ages can come together to enjoy food, coffee or other beverages and engaging play.

The pair said Wonder’s objectives are threefold:

Create and nurture a feeling of belongingPromote social interactionOffer a secure and stimulating space for children to discover and acquire knowledge
The inspiration
Oestreich said she and her husband, Tyler (Holzmann’s brother), have three children and were always looking for opportunities that were enjoyable for both adults and children.

“There was always a gap of things to do during the week with kids that both the adults and kids enjoyed,” she said.

Oestreich said she had an idea for a business and after visiting places elsewhere in Wisconsin with similar concepts to Wonder, she realized what an asset something like that would be for the Fond du Lac community.

One of the missions of Wonder is to offer a secure and stimulating space for children to discover and acquire knowledge Submitted Photo

“About a year ago (March 2023), I got talking with Tristin about ideas about owning our own business, and we came together on the idea of a play cafe,” she said.

Having always envisioned herself one day becoming an entrepreneur, Holzmann said she was excited for the opportunity to make this dream a reality.

Not just for parents and kids
The next nine months, Oestreich said, were spent developing their brand, securing a location and deciding what to put in their play cafe.

In visiting similar models, she said it seemed like they mostly catered to parents and their kids.

Oestreich and Holzmann said they wanted to offer something more and, in doing so, have found a niche market.

“Those models are basically a play area with a little bit of coffee — whereas we’re catering to both the cafe market and the play market,” Oestreich said. “You don’t have to have kids to come in. You can come in and grab lunch or a coffee and either hang out or take it to go. That’s where we’re different from your typical play cafe.”

What’s in a name?
Holzmann said the business’s name aims to capture both markets.

“We want it to be a place where people who are downtown shopping or whatever can stop in and get a coffee or lunch, with or without kids,” she said. “We brainstormed with a lot of names but thought the name ‘Wonder’ was a good fit (for what we wanted to do).”

Holzmann said they want to be a place where people can connect.

“Whether they’re meeting friends or if they’re new in the area, they can meet others who may be going through similar walks in life,” she said. “(Or maybe there are moms out there) who want to meet other moms who are going through some of the same things. We’re a place for people to meet, connect and have conversations.”

Pay-to-play concept
The play side at Wonder, Holzmann said, has a pay-to-play concept for parents and their children.

The facility offers play sessions of 30, 60 and 90 minutes.

Upon arrival, Holzmann said parents choose how much time they want their child to play and pay for it in advance.

A 30-minute session costs $6; 60 minutes is $9; and 90 minutes is $12, and Wonder operates on a “first come-first served basis.”

Once a time allotment is purchased, Holzmann said, the child can begin to play.

But, if they are at capacity, such as on a Saturday — their busiest day — their wait-list online system kicks in.

Holzmann said they usually limit the number of kids in the play area to 20 at a time.

She said the system will send waiting parents a text message when there’s room available in their play area.

So far, Holzmann said no one has had to wait longer than 15 minutes.

Holzmann said parents will get another message when their child’s playtime has expired, at which point additional time can be purchased if desired.

“The purpose of the text messages is (to be) more like a timekeeper, of sorts,” she said.

Holzmann said the system helps keep things more organized and on schedule, and they can focus their time on other things rather than being timekeepers.

Oestreich — who has a degree in early childhood/elementary education — said a great deal of thought was put into the toys and games offered at Wonder.

For example, the duo said they chose toys that allow the mind to “wonder” and help promote fine and gross motor play.

Children can also play in a dollhouse, a playset or dress in costumes to further help spur their imagination and sense of wonder.

Holzmann has a dual major in dance and arts management and is the former administrative manager and marketing director for the Thelma Sadoff Arts Center in Fond du Lac — which she said has allowed her to fine-tune her skills in developing art programming and events, a skill she now uses at Wonder.

Oestreich and Holzmann said Wonder also offers a slate of classes — some of which are free and some which require a ticket to participate — but all that are geared toward kids, including story times, music and movement activities, art classes, meet-ups and yoga.

And Oestreich said they’re always adding more things to the calendar — so there’s always something new to do.

Holzmann said parents, guardians or caregivers must remain on the premises with their children.

A place to gather
Wonder offers a full espresso bar serving Colectivo Coffee, hot chocolate and a variety of teas and smoothies.

Oestreich and Holzmann said the kitchen serves a small menu featuring items such as pesto chicken wraps, hummus veggie wraps, pizza melts, grilled cheese, peanut butter & jelly (grilled or un-grilled) and even a kid’s snack tray where kids pick snacks they want from a “menu” of items, which are served in a muffin tray for fun.

Located at 15 N. Main St., Suite 101 in Fond du Lac, Wonder is home to an indoor play area and cafe featuring a menu of coffee, drinks and food items. Submitted Photo

A host of delicious bakery items are also available from 3 Sweets Bakery in neighboring Dundee.

“The cafe is separate from the play area, so it’s a little quieter,” Holzmann said.

Oestreich and Holzmann said they can easily accommodate 25 people in the cafe area, so it’s a great place for small groups to hold meetings.

Since opening, Wonder has hosted the local Kiwanis Club for lunch and Envision Greater Fond du Lac — the economic development arm for the Fond du Lac County area — is having a business connection event there soon.

Time to party
Oestreich and Holzmann said they also rent out the space after hours for private events, such as birthday parties or other special occasions.

They offer multiple options for private parties whether they provide all the decorations and food, the person who’s booking the event provides it, or it’s a combination of both.

“People can bring in food, but we do not allow drinks to be brought in,” Holzmann said. “All drinks have to be purchased through the espresso bar. We also offer catering services for birthday cakes and cupcakes, that sort of thing through 3 Sweets Bakery.”

Located at 15 N. Main St., Suite 101 in Fond du Lac, Wonder’s hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

When asked how they would best sum up what Wonder is all about, the owners said they are “a meeting place for people and children to connect and enjoy themselves.”

Their tagline/slogan perhaps says it best:”Meet. Sip. Play.”

For more details, visit

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