On the HOT SEAT:
Jessie Puzach, owner
Birch & Banyan Coffee
Welcome to the lake country hot seat! We believe in supporting local, and being apart of our community. We cannot think of a better way to get to know the owners of local businesses, community leaders, makers and shakers than to ask them questions to learn their knowledge, advice, wisdom, challenges, wins, and maybe some fun personal tidbits as well. We are hoping a little interview will help drive traffic for them by gaining insight in trust to who they are by you!
150 E Capitol Drive | Village of Hartland
Shop: 262-313-9912 Me: 262-370-4953
What inspired you to start your own business?
My first job in high school was at a mom and pop coffeeshop, and I just fell in love. I was the first employee they hired, so I saw some of the process to open the shop, and I knew right then that I wanted to do that myself one day. I’ve always gravitated to coffeeshops, and worked in them on and off for years in college and grad school.
My original plan was to open a shop after my marketing career, but when I was in my late 20s I was in a series of jobs with poor cultures, and I just couldn’t imagine doing that every day. I wanted to be in an environment where people felt happy and inspired, so instead of looking for it, I decided to create it. This was before I met my husband, so it was only myself and my dog, nobody really relying on my income. So I decided to quit my job and take the risk.
How did you choose the name of your business?
I grew up on Birch Road in Delafield, and the Banyan tree is a tree you see all over Hawaii, which is my absolute favorite place. So it’s the combination of two happy, sentimental places. The alliteration just worked out perfectly! And it’s a unique enough name that it’s memorable.
Have you always been a coffee lover? I know you worked in coffee shops before you started your own, tell us about those experiences.
I wasn’t a coffee drinker before I started my first job. I was 15 and couldn’t imagine drinking coffee, but I loved the environment. I started out with Irish Cream steamers, which is just the flavor and the steamed milk. Over time I would start adding more and more espresso and less and less flavor to slowly train my palate. And now I drink black coffee all day every day!
How do you choose the items you sell?
Shop local is very important to me, so we work with all local vendors wherever possible. Our coffee roaster is Anodyne, from Milwaukee. We use bakery from Sally’s Sweet Shoppe bakery, in Genesee Depot, Rishi Tea from in Milwaukee, lunch items from Great Harvest in Delafield, and more. Even our general distributor is a family owned business in Horicon, as opposed to using a national chain.
When it comes to our menu, we try to cover all the bases, from traditional “coffee snob” drinks like straight espresso, traditional macchiatos, and cortados, all the way to the blended candy-like drinks. Once or twice per year I try to introduce something that you wouldn’t generally see at a shop in the suburbs, like our Espresso Tonic. Sometimes people take to them, sometimes they don’t. But it’s always a fun experiment!
What is your professional background? How did you get into the retail field?
My undergrad degrees is in Business, specifically Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management. I did one year of law school before realizing it was absolutely not for me, and then got my Master’s in Communication, specifically Advertising and PR. My “first career” was in Digital Marketing, primarily as a writer. I did copywriting, PR, social media, content writing, web design, etc. It’s helpful in the sense that I run all of our marketing myself. But also coming from a business background helps tremendously. Most coffee shops are opened by people whose passion is coffee. I’m obviously a coffee lover, but I’m unique in the sense that my background is actually business.
What sets your store apart?
It sounds cliché, but we want our shop to be like a family. My mom actually works here with us, and has been here since Day 1. So we always say that when you work here you become part of our family. Most every brunette we’ve had, has been asked if they’re related to us!
We want to be people’s happy place, where they can come and feel safe, feel inspired, and feel like they belong. Ultimately, we hope everyone here feels like a part of the Birch family.
What are the first things customers see when they walk through the doors?
In our first few days of being open we actually had multiple people open the door and stop, apologizing that they walked into someone’s house, because they meant to walk into a business. It was perfect, because we’ve always wanted to feel like a comfortable living room where you can feel casual and relaxed. So hopefully that’s still the ambience, even though we sadly outgrew the comfy couch!
What are a few must-have items/drinks right now?
I don’t think Cold Brew will ever stop being popular, so that’s a great option. We also added Lotus last year, which is a plant based energy drink. We describe it as a healthier, better tasting version of a Redbull. They’re so fun, because you can play with different flavors and colors.
In terms of food, we just started our Bistro Boxes, which I like to describe as adult lunchables. Each box has hard boiled eggs, cheese, salami, peanuts, and raisins, and are 25 grams of protein. They’ve been great grab and go items!
What is your favorite thing about your job? Most rewarding? Most challenging?
We have the absolute most wonderful customers, and especially our regulars. The best parts of the day are the moments where we get to grow our relationships with the people that walk through the door, and start to build those relationships with new faces.
The most challenging part is the human factor. I adore my team, and we have a phenomenal group. But there are 13 of us, which means 13 lives to keep track of and 13 people to manage. It’s crazy to think that six years ago when we opened there were only seven of us.
How do you juggle being a mom and business owner? Any tips for our readers?
Oh gosh, that’s not something I would ever claim to have figured out. My husband and I both have eclectic schedules, so our lives always feel a bit crazy. One thing that’s helped is we each have a dedicated day with our daughter. She’s in daycare part time, but we each have one day that’s just one of us with her. And then Sundays we commit to the day as a family. Sometimes we end up here at the shop working on a project, but we make Charlie a part of that. She loves visiting Mom at the coffeeshop, and now she plays “coffee order” at home. It’s not always realistic to separate mom life and business owner life, so I try to organically combine them. I bring her to work sometimes so she sees what Mom does, and she loves being part of it.
TELL US WHAT A “DAY IN THE LIFE” LOOKS LIKE FOR YOU NOW THAT YOU’RE RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS!
Well, I literally just had to pause answering these questions in order to go fix a broken toilet. I have no experience with that, but since I own the business and the building, I’ve learned how to do many things I never thought I would before!
My days are wildly different and hard to predict. There are the standard tasks, like placing orders, making the schedule, etc. But I’m an accountant, a marketer, and HR. Some days I’m a contractor, a plumber, or a builder. My favorite days are the ones where I’m needed on the floor, and I get to spend time talking with our customers.
Just for fun…
What is your most random impulse buy?
I’m trying to find a new hobby lately. I went crazy one day buying things for knitting and crochet (I still don’t understand the difference). Six months later I have yet to learn either one, but I have a whole big box of supplies ready for when I do!
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