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Local shop expands its brand footprint by opening a cafe

The Gourmet Café recently opened inside Shawano’s Thornberry Cottage

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October 3, 2023

SHAWANO – An idea at least 18 months in the making – that’s how The Gourmet Café owner Suzette Hackl-Kroll described the path that led to the cafe’s opening last month.

The cafe is located inside Hackl-Kroll’s Thornberry Cottage (130/132 S. Main St.), in Shawano – which offers home furnishings and decor, as well as women’s and children’s fashions and accessories.

Hackl-Kroll said though the building now houses the shop – it has a history of food-related tenants – including a grocery store, an ice cream place and a couple of different diners. 

So, when she said she started planning for a cafe of some kind, it wasn’t really a surprise.  

“If you look at the retail stores that are successful, most of them either have or are starting to have food within their stores,” she said. “So, when we started designing the footprint of this building, it was designed to be a retail store with a cafe inside, and that way we were able to continue the Thornberry Cottage brand. Food always brings people in, and there’s always been that food element in this building. So, we knew we wanted to continue that heritage of the building.”   

Having bought the building in July 2022, Hackl-Kroll said she had been researching and thinking about the cafe menu and what it would look like during the entire building renovation process.

When she had most of her general ideas somewhat ironed out, she started working with area experts to bring everything to fruition.

The menu
Hackl-Kroll said Chef Devin Summers, divisional chef at Performance Food Service, helped design the menu and fine-tune the different recipes.

“He spent many days with me refining the items,” she said. “Each one of the sandwiches has a unique sauce on them. Some of them have two sauces – one on each side.”

Hackl-Kroll said she also worked with a local Italian bakery.

“I also worked with (the owner of) Fannita’s Bakery – she was instrumental in trying different recipes for breads (before I settled on something),” she said.

The Gourmet Café menu, Hackl-Kroll, offers a variety of sandwiches – many of which are named after rock ‘n roll bands or singers.

One unique feature of the sandwiches, she said, is that each of them can be made into a salad.

The cafe’s menu includes a variety of different options, including the Zeppelin – complete with prosciutto, hot soppressata, burrata, fresh walnut pesto, spicy garlic aioli, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula. Submitted Photo

Hackl-Kroll said the cafe also serves different soups and pastries, as well as coffee drinks, tea, and alcoholic beverages, such as wine, beer and cocktails. 

“We put the cafe toward the back of the building to allow customers to have easy access to it from the (city) parking lot,” she said. “With the retail store toward the front of the building, there is easy access to it from the shopping district.”

A good fit
Opening Thornberry Cottage – and now The Gourmet Café – in Shawano, Hackl-Kroll said, was a win-win for the business.

Customers have the benefit of shopping for and finding unique gifts of all kinds – with more than 15,000 brands available across different departments.

The move to Shawano – Thornberry Cottage was previously located in Howard, just outside of Green Bay – Hackl-Kroll said was an opportunity to keep the business alive. 

Thornberry Cottage got its start in 1987 when a woman named Sue VanDenElzen began selling home decor from the basement of her home in Suamico.

Hackl-Kroll said she would shop there often as a kid.

When village ordinances no longer allowed her to run the business out of her home, Hackl-Kroll said VanDenElzen relocated to a storefront in Howard.

Over the years, the shop moved locations within Howard a handful of times.

Eventually, Hackl-Kroll said VanDenElzen decided she wanted to retire and, without a buyer on the horizon, she was going to close up shop.

“We couldn’t let that happen,” Hackl-Kroll said. “I’d not only shopped there when I was younger, but I know her from church. My sister, Saundra, and I already owned a consignment store called Home Again we bought in 2017, so we thought it made sense to also buy Thornberry Cottage.”   

A necessary pivot
Hackl-Kroll said she and Saundra purchased Thornberry Cottage from VanDenElzen in spring 2018 and moved Home Again to be adjacent to Thornberry Cottage, an idea she said they thought would be successful.

But, people who liked Thornberry Cottage didn’t much like the idea of a consignment store – and vice versa.

Hackl-Kroll said it soon became clear both stores couldn’t long survive.

“So, we ended up choosing the Thornberry Cottage brand because it was the more profitable of the two brands at the time,” she said. “But it wasn’t even a year or so later that COVID-19 hit – and it hit us hard. We were closed for many months.”

With the reduced traffic the store saw, Hackl-Kroll said they began strategizing about how the shop could stay in business.

“At one time, there were 20 or 30 boutiques in Green Bay – but there were only about six or seven left,” she said. “A lot of the boutiques had left and gone to tourist areas where there’s more of a shopping district. We thought that was an attractive idea.”

This led to the leasing of some space in Shawano – where they were also both living – and decided to open a “test store” in January 2022.

From that leased space, Hackl-Kroll said they sold their baby and gift products – Thornberry’s children’s boutique offerings.

The Gourmet Café is located inside Thornberry Cottage located at 130/132 S. Main St. in Shawano. Submitted Photo

“We did so well in Shawano that we bought a building a few doors (away) at 130/132 S. Main St. in July 2022 and began renovations,” she said.

Hackl-Kroll said during that time, she bought out her sister, who decided to go in a different direction professionally.

“I bought her out and took over as sole owner,” she said. “We began the renovations in September 2022 and closed the Howard location in October 2022. It was too hard to renovate this store and keep the other one in Howard open.”

Hackl-Kroll said it was sad leaving Howard – “but we couldn’t survive staying there.”

“The cost of rent was outrageous, we were experiencing some supply chain issues and we never rebounded there (after COVID),” she said. “And there’s no shopping district at all in Howard – everything is all spread out. The location we’re in now was attractive to us because of Shawano’s shopping district and Main Street. Leaving Howard was a business decision in order to sustain the brand – it was either going out of business or moving and trying this somewhere else. Moving here has saved us.”

Hackl-Kroll said the baby items aspect of the store opened in the newly renovated building in February, followed by the furniture, home goods and women’s fashions portions of the business in March.

Though the shop occupies two separate addresses – 130 and 132 S. Main – Hackl-Kroll said for all intents and purposes, it is one “parent store” in one big building.  

Since March, Hackl-Kroll said she has been slowly renovating other aspects of the shop – including the furnaces, air-conditioning and electrical. 

A storied past
Hackl-Kroll said the building the shop and cafe now call home, though completely renovated, has a rich history dating back to 1910.

Part of it was completely destroyed in a fire around 1940; it was rebuilt in approximately 1947. Photos from that era adorn the walls of Thornberry Cottage, and Hackl-Kroll said it’s amazing to see the exposed brick from the burned-out shell is the exact same brick they’ve opened up and exposed as part of their renovations. 

“It’s a cool story,” she said.

Other renovations, Hackl-Kroll said, are possible in the future.

“There’s the entire upstairs and basement that could be redesigned,” she said. “But I need to take a break now – I’m pretty tired.”

So, for now, Hackl-Kroll said she’ll focus on running the store and cafe along with her nine employees. 

For more information on Thornberry Cottage visit or check it out on Facebook.

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