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New coffee shop in Brandon aims to ‘buck’ stereotypes

Wake Up Whitetail caters to clientele from hunters to coffee connoisseurs

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January 9, 2024

BRANDON – Berkley, California has roughly one coffee shop per 2,000 of its residents – the highest rate for any U.S. city, per 

It seems Brandon, Wisconsin may have them beat.

The village now has one coffee shop for all its nearly 900 residents, thanks to Matt Norton and Adrianna Wegner. 

Norton and Wegner opened Wake Up Whitetail in November 2023, but the number of cups per capita is only part of the coffee shop’s buzz.  

In addition to the shop’s small-batch specialty coffees, Wegner and Norton said its high-quality food, smoothies, lattes, baked goods, superb customer service and unique hunting theme have been an exciting attraction for the people of Brandon and beyond, as well. 

“We’ve had people come from all over the state, from hours and hours away, just to come to the shop,” Norton said. 

Wegner said the buzz Wake Up Whitetail is receiving is just what they hoped for.

“We kind of wanted this to be, ‘oh, you’re going to Wisconsin from another state – you have to stop at Wake Up Whitetail,’” she said.

Norton and Wegner said customers enjoy the shop’s cozy, “rustic-meets-industrial” vibe, which they said features professional woodwork and rare, vintage signs.

However, the duo said, the most popular aspect of the décor is its large collection of whitetail deer mounts and wildlife taxidermy – which Wegner said is primarily from her father’s collection.

Co-owner Adrianna Wegner said Wake Up Whitetail has a cozy, “rustic-meets-industrial” vibe that is complemented by a large collection of whitetail deer mounts and wildlife taxidermy from her father’s collection. Submitted Photo

“My dad has been a collector of taxidermy for 30-plus years, mostly whitetail deer,” she said. “He has (the full collection) at his house, but only so many people get to see that. He realizes there are so many people who get to enjoy his mounts now (at the coffee shop) and (he gets to) show them off.” 

Most prominently of the collection, Wegner and Norton said, is the shop’s chandelier.

Wegner said her father improved on her original request for him to build a more traditional antler chandelier and instead constructed a “one-of-a-kind” statement piece featuring eight vintage deer mounts. 

Norton said the shop also displays several European-style mounts courtesy of the popular YouTube channel The Hunting Public.

He said one of the show’s hosts is a childhood friend, which eventually led to cross-promotion including Let’s Hunt!, a Wake Up Whitetail roast with a package bearing the show’s logo. 

“They’re focused mostly on whitetail deer hunting, so that’s kind of how that all came together,” he said. “We also are the only retail storefront where you can buy their apparel.” 

From the ground(s) up 
Collaboration with The Hunting Public is just one of the ways Norton and Wagner said they’ve sought to expand their brand beyond Brandon’s village limits.

Mindful of the size of their local market, the duo said they planned from the beginning to sell Wake Up Whitetail coffee and apparel through its website. 

But the shop’s primary focus, they said, will be on Brandon and their fellow villagers. 

Other than their time in college, Wegner and Norton said they’ve always lived in or near Brandon, where the high school sweethearts – recently engaged – said they bought their first home together. 

The newly engaged pair said between Norton’s flatwork company, MN Concrete Construction, and Wegner’s long-time employment at Bluemke’s Food Mart in nearby Rosendale, they saved money to start a business together in Brandon.

“We knew for the last probably six years that we were going to do some sort of business, but we weren’t sure exactly what,” Norton said. 

While they zeroed in on their strategy, Norton and Wegner said they gained professional and interpersonal experience in their respective work.

Ultimately, the duo said they were inspired by the various coffee shops they’d frequented throughout and since their college days. 

In 2022, Wegner and Norton said they officially registered Wake Up Whitetail as an LLC – and first and foremost developed the coffee brand, even if they hadn’t decided how to sell it.  

“The vision was there,” Norton said. “We were maybe going to do a trailer.” 

The couple said their consideration of a mobile coffee shop was cut short when the building at 142 East Main Street suddenly became vacant.

Norton said securing the downtown Brandon space prompted him to contact coffee roasters throughout Wisconsin and nearby states – but said it was a local company that impressed him the most. 

“Bedrock (Coffee Roasters) out of Neenah answered all of my questions,” he said. “One of the main questions was, ‘We want to do our own branding and make our own labels – would you be able to help us do that?’ And they were one of the few that recognized that and helped us do that.”

To gain coffee expertise, Wegner said she has long sought inspiration via social media. Otherwise, she and Norton said they’ve been fortunate to have Bedrock as a willing resource – working closely with them to cultivate the perfect blends for Wake Up Whitetail’s small-batch coffees.

“The guys at the roastery – they know coffee,” Norton said. “Like the bean itself, or how to roast that to certain degrees, because 30 seconds of roasting will change the complete taste of a bean. And they’re super picky. They’re amazing guys. I swear, I don’t know how we landed them.”

With a coffee roaster secured, Wegner and Norton said their thoughts turned to the rest of their menu – as did those of Brandon’s residents.

Since the building featured a full kitchen, and the location had formerly been known as a breakfast spot, they said the news of its reopening piqued residents’ interest.

“We were focused on coffee, and then we just had a ton of people reaching out, saying ‘Are you going to do food?’” Wegner said. “Other than Mel’s (Bar & Grill) and The Corner Bar, there is no other food (options) in Brandon.”

In addition to building out the menu, which they said has primarily been Wegner’s vision, Norton said they completely renovated the space to combine two units into one – a renovation that took 38 weeks.

Matt Norton said Wake Up Whitetail sources its coffee from Bedrock Coffee Roasters in Neenah. Submitted Photo

When the time came to decorate Wake Up Whitetail, Norton and Wegner said above all, they wanted it to be a comfortable place for all customers.

They said hunting is wildly popular in the region, and by embracing that culture they could make the shop uniquely welcoming for patrons who may not be drawn to traditional coffee shop culture.

The decision was also personal, Wegner and Norton said, as they, too, are both passionate about hunting.

Wegner said she grew up deer hunting with her father, where Norton said he also hunts deer, but his main recreation of choice is waterfowl hunting.

They both said they cherish how the sport lends itself to making memories and sharing them – conversations all the better, they said, with a cup of coffee in hand. 

Open season
Fittingly, Wake Up Whitetail opened for business just ahead of deer hunting season last fall. Norton said the shop organized a promotional hunting contest for the village, with entrants competing for the biggest buck.

Norton and Wegner said ironically, Norton essentially missed the season due to their hunting-themed shop – though they said they couldn’t have been happier about it. 

“I’d tried to get out and hunt, but the shop just got overrun,” Norton said.

Wegner and Norton said they have continued working their respective jobs that preceded Wake Up Whitetail, with Wegner utilizing vacation days and Norton maximizing his industry’s slow season.  

They said though their business strengths are often complementary, both have extensive customer service experience and expectations.

They said they’re very proud of the consistency and hospitality skills of their 12- to 14-person staff.

“We get people who know their coffee, which is good because we have good coffee,” Wegner said. “And we also get many customers who would not be going into other coffee shops, and they’ll say, ‘I don’t know anything about this, but give me something that’ll taste good.’ They just have to tell us what they like, and we’ll make them something.”

Wegner said the caramel macchiato has been a customer favorite, as well as several non-coffee options.

“Our smoothies have been a really big hit,” she said. “We make them with fresh, frozen fruit – we don’t use a concentrate.” 

She said the shop also serves its own energy drinks called Shotguns, with popular flavors including blue Airhead and caramel apple.

For the food menu, Norton and Wegner said Wake Up Whitetail has a range of breakfast and lunch options and baked goods, some permanent and some seasonal.

They said the breakfast sandwiches are the top sellers, and Wagner said she aims to expand the shop’s baked goods capabilities this year. 

“Whatever we do offer, we’re going to try to offer that as the best quality of whatever it may be, because that’s what we want our brand to represent,” Norton said. 

Wegner and Norton said their efforts have been well received so far. 

“The community support has been amazing,” Wegner said. “We’ve had a lot of people come in and say it just doesn’t feel like you’re in Brandon, and they have such big smiles on their faces because they feel like Brandon can be a place that’s something bigger.” 

Norton said he hopes Wake Up Whitetail can help to bolster the village and its culture, and he said he and Wegner have been meeting with local representatives and business leaders as part of efforts to beautify Brandon.

He said out of a sense of civic duty, they recently joined a committee focused on “bringing the downtown to life” and better involving Brandon’s residents.

“They’ve been super good to us, but we’re not done yet,” he said. “We want to use this to give back to the community.” 

They said they’re highly encouraged by local as well as longer-distance support, and see the business as a chance to inspire other would-be entrepreneurs. 

“I’ve just talked to so many people where they’re like, ‘ah… I wish I would’ve done this,’ or ‘I should’ve done that,’” Norton said. “I kind of want to be the example of, ‘hey, if we can do it, you can do it.’”

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