Sipping java at Mrs. Sippy's in Elm Grove
Weary of being caught in the cross-currents of middle management, Carol Svehlek decided she would be happier running her own business. That's a story that has been repeated often.
But Svehlek chose to be David in a land of Goliaths when she selected her slice of the American dream. In a market that had Starbucks, Alterra and Stone Creek flexing their muscles, she picked coffee, selling her own brand by the pound and the cup in a single storefront in New Berlin.
Calling her venture Mrs. Sippy's Coffee and locating the shop where Coffee Road dead ends into National Avenue, Svehlek successfully competed with the big java boys for 12 years. To smooth the ups and downs of the coffee trade, she served breakfast and lunch as well as greeting cards and some gift items.
Then Mrs. Sippy's made a big move last summer, leaving New Berlin for the high traffic count of Blue Mound Road. Svehlek took her shop to the upscale Autumn Grove Plaza in Elm Grove, where it has more space and ample parking. She says a planned road widening project and the loss of some parking stalls at her old location prompted the change.
Customers are now doing their Mrs. Sippy's sipping in an attractive modern space with table seating for about 60, a six stool bar and a small lounge that features upholstered furniture and a gurgling fountain. The bar reflects the introduction of alcohol to the coffee shop's offerings. A selection of California, Italian and Argentinian wines is sold for $4-$6 a glass, and a range of bottle beers that includes Spotted Cow, Lakefront Riverwest Stein and Guinness are $4.
Mrs. Sippy's is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Beer is discounted $1 a bottle from 5 to 8 every night.
The addition of a grill and fryer in the new location has allowed Svehlek to expand the food items she offers. Her best selling sandwich is a Milwaukee throwback, fried bologna with fried onions ($4.99). It is served on Texas toast.
"My mother made me put it on the menu," the owner says. Quarter pound burgers -- Angus beef, turkey or veggie -- start at $4.99, with toppings extra. Other sandwiches include a grilled Reuben ($6.99), Cuban panini ($6.99) and pot roast ($7.99).
Breakfast burritos, sandwiches and omelets are served all day. A wide selection of baked good are also available. Svehlek's mother, Phyllis Gauthier, bakes banana bread and apple dumplings for the shop, Wild Flour Bakery provides muffins, and house baked scones are for sale.
Mrs. Sippy's daily specials range from pancakes and French toast on Sundays to a $9.99 beer-battered fish fry on Fridays.
The food offerings may be more extensive than her big name competitors, but Mrs. Sippy's is all about the coffee. With her only restaurant industry experience being at McDonald's and Suburpia long ago, Svehlek spent three years researching the details of the java business. She learned about beans and roasting, and she developed firm convictions about what she wanted to sell.
Svehlek found a local roaster to prepare the beans to her specifications, and she adopted a distinctive logo centered around a head and shoulders portrait of "Mrs. Sippy." The photo is actually Svehlek's mother's graduation picture from Pulaski High School.
"I just wanted to sell a real good cup of coffee," Svehlek says." The competition presented by national and regional chains did not daunt her.
"I felt if I sold a quality product I wouldn't have a problem. There are many different tastes in coffee, and I thought there was room for my segment."
Asked to describe that niche, she continues, "My coffee isn't bitter."
The Mrs. Sippy's house blend, a medium roast of four beans that is Svehlek's personal favorite, is the company's biggest seller. Butterscotch toffee takes the popularity prize for flavored coffees.
The shop offers about 30 non-flavored coffees and more than 100 flavored brews. Not all of the flavors are always in stock, but they can be ordered. Prices are $2.25 for 2-oz. bags, $6.99 for eight ounces and $12.99 a pound.
And they all have a picture of mom on the bag.
when I saw the picture along with this article I thought they were serving the coffee in ginormus cups, that would have been so awesome.
Glad to hear you're still in business! I was worried when the New Berlin shop closed. My friends and I used to go there years ago when we got out of school after winter exams. We would go sledding and then warm up with some lunch and hot chocolate at Mrs. Sippy's.
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