The City of Verona will lend a loan to help the business move into the space at 300 S. Main St.
Alice Good will take over the space left vacant by Tuvalu Coffeehouse’s December closing. Alice Good, like its predecessor, will be a cafe that specializes in Colombian coffee.
Ralph Stern, co-owner, has been a coffee lover since childhood. But how he ended up living in Colombia, a country that is known for its high quality coffee, was more chance than design.
Stern was raised in Madison but moved to California for college.
After studying economics, he went to college in 2008. He decided to visit Paris for a business school summer. He loved Paris so much that he decided to stay until “just one” was eight years.
His wife was Colombian and he met her in France. Stern moved with his wife to South America and lived there for five years.
He said, “It was a happy coincidence that I was a caffeine freak.”
Stern and Laura Serrato were content in South America and enjoyed their lives, but the pandemic forced them to reevaluate their lives and decide to move to the United States. Stern’s parents had some health problems and Stern was unable to travel.
Stern was able to start a new career by moving back to Wisconsin.
Stern stated, “I was a coffee geek for many years and people would ask me why don’t I work in coffee.” “I always had an excuse: I already have a job and there are poor economic conditions.
The pandemic struck Colombia just as he was about to give up his passion. He and Serrato had just signed a lease to open a cafe there. Instead, they started an e-commerce packaged espresso business.
Stern and Serrato arrived in the USA to start looking for potential locations to open their dream businesses in Madison, Sun Prairie or Verona. Their timing coincided with Tuvalu’s closing.
Stern stated that Verona is a great place to bike and enjoy the trails, nature and Epic. We want to offer great coffee and make it a place where people can hang out, stay, and that is what we aim to do. The location in Verona stood out from all others when it came to being able provide this service. The fact that the building was once a coffee shop was just the cherry on top. This should make it easier for us to get our name out there. We hope that the service we offer is as good or better than Tuvalu’s once we open in a few more weeks.”
Stern stated that remodeling is progressing well. However, as it tends to be with renovation projects, there have been a few surprises along the route, which has delayed their opening.
He said that the carpets were quite old and other items had to be taken out to make the space look and feel modern. We are not going to rip out everything. However, we want some changes to make the space look a bit more modern. It had an outdated feel and look.
They plan to open in the summer, but they had hoped to open earlier.
The focus of the new cafe will be coffee. However, there will be complimentary beverages such as organic teas from Rishi Tea or hot chocolate with Colombian cocoa. Bloom Bake Shop of Madison will also be available to provide donuts, scones and other baked goods. Light lunch options such as sandwiches and salads will also be available on the menu.
Hours will start in the morning and end around the early afternoon. Because it is difficult to find enough staff, they won’t start until the evening.
They see themselves expanding their hours, perhaps to take advantage of nearby evening events such as Music on Main or to provide live entertainment.
Serrato is a Colombian citizen who is applying for her green card. The pair were not eligible for small business loans because they couldn’t meet the requirements that at least 51% of the owners be U.S citizens.
Stern stated, “We found ourselves in tight spots at banks.”
The City of Verona offered a loan program that allowed them to breathe a sigh relief when they were looking for financing options in February. They applied in March, and were approved in May for $75,000 in the city’s Revolving Loan Fund.
The Verona Economic Development Commission Revolving Loan Fund’s objective is to provide capital financing in order to foster business development within the municipality, according to the website. “VEDC loans can be used together with conventional private financing to fill financing gaps and fill in financing gaps. They are meant to be an economic development tool to promote business expansion, employment opportunities and investment in the community.
Adam Sayre, City Administrator, told the Press that four previous Revolving Loans have been disbursed by the city in the past 10 years. The fund helped Alice Good and Verona Area Community Theater.
Stern stated that the loan is a regular loan that has monthly payments and interest.
Stern and Serrato will receive additional funding from the city, which is why they have to contribute more than the city.
Stern stated, “They provided some capital for us to get up and running.”
Thanks to the city’s help, Alice Good is now in good shape. Who is Alice Good?
Names have a double meaning
Stern’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who spent time in Buchenwald and Auschwitz, was also a Holocaust survivor. After escaping to the United States, she began a new life under the alias Alice Good. This was derived from the Yiddish/German phrase “alle is gut”, which literally means “all’s well.”
Stern and Serrato now have a bit more security in their finances, so they can look forward to opening their doors in about three weeks.
Stern stated, “Verona’s a great community and it’s a pleasure to be a part.” “We are thrilled to welcome Verona and all other interested parties.