aimee suzanne kruse-ross | liberty cafe | april 2017
In Wisconsin, winter's chill is diminishing and we're looking forward to warmer weather. But regardless of the weather, you can always depend on warming up in the outstretched arms of one of Green Bay's intimate coffeehouses, the Liberty Café. With local artwork adorning its interior, this cafe offers coffee drinks and gourmet sandwiches in the heart of Green Bay's historic downtown.
The café's owner, Cory Nicklaus, says fond memories of working at Kavarna years earlier left him dreaming of someday opening his own coffee shop.
“It was the most fun job I'd ever had," says Nicklaus. “I told myself that one day, I wanted to own my own coffee shop."
Years later, while working at Humana as a Provider Resolver Analyst, Nicklaus began to take his first steps towards making his dream a reality.
“I spent two years researching how to start a small business and began working on my business plan," says Nicklaus.
His plans were thrust into high gear when he discovered that Liberty Café's owners, Alex and Linda Galt — who had employed Nicklaus at Kavarna — were closing Liberty Café.
Nicklaus saw an opportunity to reach for his dream and in an interesting turn of events, his old employers became like mentors, helping Nicklaus to reopen Liberty Café.
“Eventually, it all fell into place. It was like it was meant to be."
On November 1, 2015, Liberty Café opened its doors to a full house consisting primarily of Nicklaus' family and friends. With little experience in food preparation, Nicklaus says he had a knot in his stomach for the first few weeks of business, but help was on the way.
Prior to his official opening day, Nicklaus was meeting with local artist Hannah Wellnitz, who had brought some of her artwork to display on the shop's walls. The ensuing conversation revealed that Wellnitz was not just an artistic painter; she also had the kitchen skill set that Nicklaus needed.
“She had the kitchen and prep experience, she knew that presentation was very important and she knew how to handle all those details," says Nicklaus.
Liberty Café proudly offers Anodyne coffee, Rishi teas and a variety of specialty drinks, both hot and chilled. Highlighting the food menu are Liberty's gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
Nicklaus got the inspiration for his menu from a former Appleton restaurant that offered similar sandwiches and tomato soup to customers daily.
“This is Wisconsin, of course, and that's what I wanted to serve: gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. At the time, there was no place in Green Bay that served them."
Taking the ever-popular cheese sandwich along with a variety of cheeses, Nicklaus then adds fresh ingredients that may include mixed greens, sweet peppers, tomatoes and red onions that are then topped off with bread from the Great Harvest Bread Company. Even a gluten-free option is available to customers. Tomato soup is offered daily along with a second soup option.
Many of Liberty's sandwiches are named after local establishments like the Northland (cheddar/chicken), the Y-Not (as in YMCA, smoked Gouda/ham) and the Liberty (swiss/bacon), while others are named for more sentimental reasons, as is the case with The Kimberly (pepper jack/ turkey) sandwich, which was named to honor his partner's sister who passed away before Nicklaus opened his café.
Today, Wellnitz continues to head up the kitchen, preparing made-to-order lunch items and breakfast sandwiches that feature cage-free eggs. Using creativity to marry flavors together as inspiration, she believes that her artistic sensibilities influence her approach to creating Liberty's weekly food specials, which have become a favorite with patrons.
“Like with painting, when I make food in a restaurant kitchen setting, I'm detail-oriented and inspired to come up with unique specials," says Wellnitz. “For me, picking recipes is the same as picking color themes. In the same way that I present a painting, I can present food."
At the time of this writing, her special of the week, the Asian Persuasion, featured deli-sliced chicken marinated in house-made tangy Asian sauce with Swiss cheese, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, red onions and greens.
“Some people will come in and get Hannah's special every day throughout the week, Monday through Friday," says a smiling Nicklaus. “She really knows what she's doing. When she's in the kitchen, I just stay out of her way!"
Liberty also serves M's Cupcakes, made fresh weekly in unusual flavors like Orange Creamsicle, Root Beer Float and Chocolate Cookie Dough. The sweet tooth can be further indulged with a variety of cookie, harvest bar and biscotti choices.
In a true labor of love, Nicklaus works seven days a week. Although closed on Sunday's, Nicklaus spends the day shopping, running errands and restocking the kitchen with necessities. Indeed, it seems like a never-ending workload, but Nicklaus is still enjoying it all.
“I'm always excited for the day," says Nicklaus, “excited to see what it brings, to see who's going to come through the door."
Liberty Café is located at 228 North Adams Street at the corner of Adams and Pine Streets, across from the Hotel Northland. Open Mon – Fri from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sat from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Sundays.
Liberty is also available to rent for private events and is also host to live, original music. On April 20, Liberty welcomes musician Dave Duffy from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Stop in and ask about Latte Happy Hour. A discount is offered to Honor Rewards for veterans and Bicycle Benefit members.
Find them on Facebook as @libertycafegreenbay or visit their website at libertycafegreenbay.weebly.com.