To the first time visitor to Door County, it may seem remarkable that life exists north of Sister Bay. The lonely stretch of Highway 42 between the Door County Ice Cream Factory and the ferry dock at Northport is sparsely populated, with fading farmsteads and a smattering of businesses.
But a new venture in Ellison Bay is adding some high-octane fuel to the Northern Door community and bringing energy for residents and visitors alike. Brew Coffee shop opened in May, and has quickly become an Ellison Bay favorite.
“There really isn’t a whole lot in Ellison Bay for people to enjoy,” says Linden Ray, who, along with his wife Wendi, owns Brew and the restaurant next door, The Mink River Basin. “We wanted to try to add something more to Ellison Bay that will attract more people here and also help local businesses of Sister Bay north.”
Brew gives people a place to assemble and catch up on local news and happenings.
“A cool aspect about Brew is that it serves as a meeting place for so many different people. We get groups here like the Ellison Bay Service Club, book clubs, knitting groups, and many more,” explains Jennifer Lee, Brew’s manager. “The coffee shop serves as an alternative to meeting at a tavern or noisy restaurant.”
“We get a lot of families, grandparents and grandchildren, and during the school year, a lot of students on their way to school who want a soda or a coffee,” explains Linden. “So far, the community has been really supportive of us.”
The building that houses Brew has an extensive history and posed a great challenge to the Rays in renovating. Originally a machine shop back in 1890, over the years the building has been home to an upscale resale store, an antique shop, an architect office, a Door Reminder office, and a garage.
“When we got the building, it was completely blank,” explains Ray. “It took a lot of work to make the building what it is today.”
The hard work soon paid off, as the partially enclosed rooms give the space a unique feel.
“The separate private spaces created a very friendly, cozy atmosphere,” explains Lee. “[People] think nothing of spending a great deal of time here with their families.”
The bakery at Brew is made in-house, and Wendi says the $3 breakfast sandwiches and homemade quiche have already become popular. Brew also offers its customers something special that is very rare among coffee bars of the area.
“Since Brew is on the same property as the Mink River Basin, the liquor license applies to it as well,” explains Ray. “Brew is one of the only coffee shops that I know of that has a liquor license.”
The license gives the coffee shop a rare opportunity to serve alcoholic coffee drinks as well beer and wine.
“I don’t want Brew to turn into a tavern,” explains Ray. “Rather, I want to give people the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine with their families in a comfortable environment that is not a tavern.”
Part of that comfortable environment is created by the art hanging on the walls.
“Currently all the paintings and pottery on the walls are done by artists from the Ellison Bay and Gills Rock area, except a picture by my grandmother who is from Ephraim,” explains Jennifer Lee, manager of Brew. “Brew gives many local artists a chance to get their feet in the door.”
The next time you make the drive or bike ride to the quieter pace of Northern Door, check out Brew, home to great coffee and a sampling of the Northern Door culture.