When you think of downtown Kenosha, The Coffee Pot is one of the first things you think of and for the past 18 years Janis & Julie have been serving Kenosha some of the best meals around. We decided to pull up the counter and get to know owners Janis & Julie’s story in this exclusive Go Downtown Kenosha Magazine interview.
Q. How did you two meet?
A. We met in high school. We both had many art classes taught by the infamous Sister Honora!
Q. Can you tell us about your first ever job in the restaurant business?
A. Our first job working with food was at Camp Nicolet for Girls in Eagle River. We were bottom rung ‘ancillary staff’. Our boss was a woman named Lorraine and she was tough on us. We lived in a small one room cabin at the camp. It was a VERY fun summer! (not counting Lorraine)
Q. What made you both partner up purchase The Coffee Pot?
A. We have worked together through many jobs and even had a cleaning business. When we were both looking for a new venture back in 2004 – The Lakeside Diner (now The Pot) became available. We made a business plan and took the leap of faith.
Q. At the time when you purchased The Coffee Pot, were you both a little nervous about the toll it might take on your friendship?
A. Yes, of course. But we have maintained our friendship through good communication and letting each other be who they are. We all have our quirks!
Q. The Coffee Pot building was a diner before you both took over, can you give us a little history lesson on the building?
A. From what we have learned, The Coffee Pot has been a diner since the early 1930’s. Before then, we have been told it was a hat store.
Q. Were you both always fans of the classic diner atmosphere?
A. I think most people have things that bring them back to a point and time. It makes sense to keep with the time frame which the building and diner business was formed.
Q. What can people expect when they stop in for a meal for the first time at The Coffee Pot?
A. A first-time diner can expect a friendly greeting. We love seeing new faces and helping them get the most out of their visit.
Q. You have one of the most iconic neon signs at The Coffee Pot, can you tell us a little bit of the history of it?
A. The neon ‘LUNCH’ sign that hangs over our little diner was commissioned in the early 1930’s for The Keno Koffee Pot. It is a one of a kind sign.
Q. You have a very loyal fan base with a ton of regulars, How does that make you both feel that people love what you have created?
A. We call it our Coffee Pot family — customers, employees and vendors throughout the 18 years we have been The Coffee Pot. This family has grown greatly since 2004, We have seen babies born and grow up to head off to college and get married! We have met treasured friends and have had to said goodbye to too many. One guy has been a fixture for sure! Paul Sturczych. If Paul doesn’t show up-we check on him!
Q. In the summer you open up your patio – The Garden of Eden – it is so beautiful. Who came up with the idea years ago to utilize that space?
A. When we first opened, we would sit in the fenced in back yard after closing and hash (get it?) over the day. This is when we started to think – ‘Gee, it’s nice out here, we should put tables back here.’ It was Ray Forgiani who said – ‘Don’t put the tables behind the fence-put them out there (pointing to our driveway), that’s what they do in Europe.’ It was a great idea. The pictures from that first year are so funny! Our cute little baby Garden of Eatin!
Q. Speaking of space, a few years ago you expanded to the space next door for more seating, how did the Kenosha Room come to be?
A. The owner of the building to the north of The Coffee Pot came in one Friday morning to let us know she would be selling, and we would be seeing new neighbors. We had an accepted offer by that afternoon. The Kenosha Room was waiting to be born!
Q. Also above the Kenosha Room you also have a B&B aka The Coffee Pot Inn, Can you describe this beautiful rental and how people can book a stay there?
A. The Coffee Pot Inn is the apartment above The Kenosha Room. We have renovated and furnished it. It is really comfortable and beautiful. We is available to rent through AirBnb.
Q. Since you’re called The Coffee Pot, I have to ask – what made you go with Torke coffee all those years ago?
A. We sampled many many many coffees. We Chose Torke Columbian because it was a rich, medium roast coffee- roasted in Sheboygan – so kind of local.
Q. Your Bloody Marys are some of the best around, who came up with the mix?
A. We have always loved and sought a good Bloody! So coming up with a recipe was not too hard. We love our mix – its even great on its own!
Q. What is the #1 meal served at The Coffee Pot?
A. That is a tough question. But, we would have to say our homemade corned beef hash is very popular.
Q. What do you both love about owning/working at the Coffee Pot?
A. We love the ‘family’ that has grown from it and being part of downtown Kenosha.
Q. What make The Coffee Pot stand out from other local restaurants?
A. It can be a busy little place – we pride ourselves on great service and consistent food (we love food!)
Q. What advice would you give other entrepreneurs that want to run a restaurant?
A. Be present, know your customers, love what you do.
Q. What do you love about Downtown Kenosha?
A. We have really seen Kenosha grow over these 18 years. Downtown Kenosha is getting more interesting and becoming more of a destination every year. We are confident that the future is bright for Downtown Kenosha!
Q, What is next for the Coffee Pot?
A. Honestly, as hard as it is, we are getting to the point where we are thinking about passing the baton to a like minded person/persons. We are starting to have grandchildren and taking on new rolls personally. The Coffee Pot is our ‘baby’ and we certainly want to make sure the baby is cared for! So for now we will be here doing just that.
WEB EXTRA Q&A
Q. Favorite restaurant besides your own in Kenosha?
A. We love Gerhards. But also all of the downtown restaurants
Q. Favorite cocktail?
A. A good bloody! Ashling! Or and Old Fashioned! Swedes!
Q. Best place to see live music in Kenosha?
A. Union Park has fun music and I really want to get to Public Craft Brewery – that stage they have looks like it could really be fun!
Q. What does Janis & Julie do for fun when you’re not working?
A. We both have dogs who love to go for walks. Janis has two grandchildren and spending time with them is top of the list.
Q. Favorite vacation spot?
A. Up north, The Florida Keys, Norway and France
Q. Favorite TV show of all time?
A. Oh lordy! Julie loves Green Acres!
Q. Favorite pizza topping?
A. Cheese, sausage, mushroom, onion. (sorry, no pineapple)
Q&A and photos by Donny Stancato • Edited by Jason Hedman
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(This article first appeared in Vol 16. #1 2023 Go Downtown Kenosha Magazine)