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The Sweet Lair: Cupcakes with a side of community

Self-taught baker Bri Lutz opens bakery, board game cafe in Menasha

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January 12, 2023

MENASHA – Taking a hobby she learned from her grandmother and transforming it into a career caps off a lifelong dream for Bri Lutz, owner of The Sweet Lair LLC, a bakery and board game cafe located at 204 Main St. in Menasha.?

Despite having no formal baking education, Lutz said she launched her made-to-order bakery business from her home and had good success.

Deciding she wanted to take things to the next level – which meant opening a brick-and-mortar location – Lutz said she reached out to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation and Fox Valley Technical College Employment Connections to connect with a business advisor.

Lutz said thanks to the support and guidance of her business advisor, she was able to secure the spot she’s in now.
“It’s not that I don’t like working from home,” she said. “But it’s a mess. I wanted my own space (for baking) and looking into that forced me to think about what I actually wanted for my business.”

Though, Lutz said opening The Sweet Lair LLC has not been all smooth sailing.

“Inflation and the cost of doing business are some big challenges for us,” she said. “Every week I purchase ingredients and fix things, and every week the prices are going up.”

Lutz said these fluctuations have resulted in a couple of price changes since opening.

Though necessary in the grand scheme of things, she said “it’s frustrating.”

More than a bakery
Lutz said from the beginning, she knew she wanted The Sweet Lair to be more than just another bakery.

“Yes, I love baking and decorating, but there are a lot of other things I love, too,” she said. “So, I thought, why not combine them and create something fun for the community?”

Bri Lutz said The Sweet Lair is a place where friends and families can enjoy baked goods, specialty coffees and family-friendly board games. Submitted Photo

That’s where, Lutz said, the board games come in.

“Board games have always been a big passion of mine,” she said. “I love playing. I love getting together. And I’m a bit of a competitive person. Especially with COVID-19, I saw people are looking for ways to get back (out) and reconnect with each other… And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a place you can go hang out and meet new people with some good food and drinks and play board games?’”

Lutz said witnessing the impact the pandemic had on her community prompted her to start researching the concept of a board game cafe.

“I found there were some board game cafes out there, but they (were different from what I wanted and had in mind),” she said.
All board games are free to play (customers may also bring their own) so long as they order something off the menu.

In addition to free play, Lutz said the cafe offers individual leagues that meet weekly.

Both the games and players are “mixed and matched” to maximize the experience.

In terms of refreshments – The Sweet Lair LLC offers a wide variety of food and drinks – from specialty coffees, baked treats and ice cream flights to homemade granola, breakfast sandwiches and make-your-own cupcakes – which allows customers to choose their cupcake flavor, filling, frosting and toppings.

The Sweet Lair has make-your-own cupcakes – which allows customers to choose their cupcake flavor, filling, frosting and toppings. Submitted Photo

“We make sweet breads, cookies, sweet rolls, brownies, cinnamon rolls, blondies and a whole bunch of other sweet treats,” she said. “As for the cafe, we offer espresso, lattes, mochas and we do a coffee flight and other classic cafe drinks. We also have smoothies and boba tea, and on top of all that, we offer breakfast: fresh-baked bagel sandwiches.”

Lutz said the cafe’s menu has been a work in progress.

“We could only offer so much at the beginning, and there’s still more we want to offer,” she said. “We’re trying to get as much available for customers as we can, within our limits of course.”

The future
As the cafe approaches its first-year anniversary (June 2023), Lutz said there is “so much” ahead for The Sweet Lair LLC. 

“We want to introduce new activities and host different leagues/tournaments, like cribbage and Dungeons and Dragons,” she said. “For our business, we’re not looking at having multiple locations, instead we’re focusing on offering more services, like an escape room or other stuff in the same genre we offer now.”

That future, Lutz said, could include adding more savory snacks and evening activities.

“We’re hoping to bring people in later, both in the evening and in the fall and winter, and eventually offer a dinner menu,” she said. “We’re not seeing the traffic at this time.”

Lutz said she’s “proudly Filipino” and wants to continue expanding her knowledge of her own culture, as well as others.

Bri Lutz

“So, I can bring it to the shop and give people something different to look forward to,” she said.

More details on The Sweet Lair, LLC, its hours of operation and its menu are available at

The cafe hours starting Jan. 17 are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. 

It is closed on Mondays.

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