It’s so rare to find a piece of property in the middle of downtown that’s vacant and ready to be developed into something awesome.

Maria Norberg

Owner/Operator, Grounded Patio Cafe

We chatted with Maria Norberg of Grounded Patio Cafe, we caught up with Maria and discussed the origins of the cafe, variety of available food, music on the patio, and even touched on her other business, Apothik Eatery + Food Truck.

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Transcript

Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information, visit them online at PFC.coop. This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. The Great River Shakespeare Festival is running now through July 31st. Featuring Twelfth Night and the African Company presents Richard the Third and more at Minnesota’s premier Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota. Buy tickets online at grsf.org. Great river, great drama. We chatted with Maria Norberg of Grounded Patio Cafe, we caught up with Maria and discussed the origins of the cafe, variety of available food, music on the patio, and even touched on her other business, Apothik Eatery + Food Truck. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:23
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:24
And this is La Crosse Local.

Brent Hanifl 01:26
We chatted with you back on episode 32, you know we touched on the Apothik Food Truck. But now we’re here to talk about the Grounded Patio Cafe. So the cafe is you know, I’ve seen it through this past summer, it just seems like a vibrant sort of space with music and art and food and drink. How did that business get its start?

Maria Norberg 01:46
You know, it’s kind of crazy, because let’s see, we’ll be coming up on in July, we’ll be coming up on 11 years that I’ll have owned Grounded. And next year will be the 20th anniversary of the start of the business. So I bought it, yeah, a little over 10 years ago from Todd and Deb Ondell. Back then it was Grounded Specialty Coffee. And when I bought that business, I had another full time job for several years before I was able to go between just Grounded and Apothik. But what made it so exciting for me in purchasing Grounded initially was the potential to do something in that space next door to Grounded. When I first bought it, there was no patio, there was no beer and wine, it was coffee, pastries, and gelato actually way back in the day. So it’s kind of crazy just how much it’s grown. But I knew that the opportunity existed. It’s so rare to find a piece of property in the middle of downtown that’s vacant and ready to be developed into something awesome. And so it took a lot to get to that place. But yeah, the patio was always a vision of mine because people crave that outdoor space the sun just to see what’s happening in that busy and vibrant downtown. And so yeah, the patio has been just an amazing addition for us. And it’s just kind of crazy how much it’s grown here over the past over 10 years,

Brent Hanifl 03:12
Talking about how you grow and with sandwiches, food breakfast items, you know, it seems like you always have a good list of craft beer to try. Is there a certain philosophy you choose for the items that you serve or pick?

Maria Norberg 03:23
Well, it’s as simple as I’m here all the time. So what do I want? And what does my staff want? You know, when I first started it, and there were just simple pastries, and a few just English muffins and that kind of thing. Just because I was there all the time. I’m like, gosh, I’d really like an egg sandwich. How can we make that happen? Or, you know, as things evolved, you know, we got rid of the gelato and you know, hey, how can we do more for blended drinks? Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a beer and wine license? How do we make that happen? And it’s just kind of grown organically from my and my staff’s needs and looking at what customers want and are asking for.

Brent Hanifl 04:00
I really like to go down well, my whole family actually likes to go down for the First Friday Art Walks, we always stop in there, we get them hot chocolate or whatever, you know, whatever drink they want. And then me and my wife kind of quickly have a porter or pale ale. Even during the winter we stood outside and kind of hung out. Just kind of like to start our night venturing to all these different art spots. Why is that important to you? Because you have exhibits ongoing throughout that, you people selling art when we stop in, why is that something that’s important?

Maria Norberg 04:29
What drew me to Grounded before I even bought the place was the sense of community. And as downtown has grown just exponentially since when I first bought it. What’s made it for me are the people and the community. And I myself am not an artist at all. But I love to look at the local art and to see what people are doing in their creative sides of it. So putting up that space for the art. We’ve had it for a long time. That alone has grown organically with people coming saying, hey, how can I display this here and in our space with the big tall ceilings and the brick wall just made it a natural fit to say, hey, how can we do our part and helping grow other people’s art and have an opportunity for them to showcase them. In addition, one of my assistant managers here, Nicki Garish is just incredibly in tune with the music and the art scene. And she’s been amazing at taking it even the next step with having artists showcase and doing multiple artists in the same month and really trying to push that out to people because she and her husband are both artists. And so she has a really good pulse on what’s happening in the community for that.

Brent Hanifl 05:42
It’s been really interesting also is the number of bands you’ve had over last summer, and I’m sure you’re gonna have some more this summer coming up, just to see these highly unique bands playing, you know, right in this sort of already active downtown areas. It’s kind of interesting. It’s almost like, kind of stopping by and catching a band just by walking down the street.

Maria Norberg 06:00
Yes. And that is so you know, when we built this patio, my main goal was how do we get people to really experience the heart of downtown La Crosse, how can they sit and enjoy a quality beverage, whether that’s beer, wine, whatever foods smoothie. But like really feel the pulse of downtown and adding music has been so much fun. We tried to keep our weekday stuff a little bit more of the single kind of acoustic thing and the weekends to do some actual bands. And you know, COVID, of course, slowed that down for us. But we have picked right back up. And we’re so excited for this summer, we’re booking music left and right. And people are just excited to be out and to experience. And of course, it adds a lot that there’s the outside space. So people feel a bit more safe being outside versus inside. But still being able to experience that sense of community and feel the music.

Brent Hanifl 06:55
You just kind of touched on COVID there, we were actively, you know, you’re one of the businesses in our rotation to order food from pickup was Apothik. Our first visit back was this last week, we tried to Udan and, you know, always get the french fries, sat down and everything, you know, is there any updates on that location? You know, besides the food truck? What’s happening at the Apothik actual sit down place?

Maria Norberg 07:19
Yeah you know, gosh, COVID, it’s been such a work in progress. And right before COVID, I bought this building 411 Third Street in downtown for Apothik. It’s just down from Earl’s Bar, used to be a biker bar. And we remodeled that back area for our own prep kitchen back in 2019. At the beginning of 2020, we were planning to kind of remodel the front part, add more seating, all of that and then boom COVID happened. And we closed for about two months along with Grounded you know, as many places did downtown, but we when we reopened our whole philosophy was how can we use this opportunity to trial different kinds of food, different ethnic style foods, family style takeout stuff, and we try a lot. And as that’s gone on, as the seasons gone on, as COVID has gone on, we’ve slowly but surely continued to expand on that and open more. And you know, in the meantime, we just kind of decided we didn’t want to spend the capital on remodeling a place that’s already kind of cool the way it is, and you know, unique and kind of edgy. And so November is when we opened up for dining for in person dining since prior to that it all been takeout. And it’s been so fun, it’s been so fun to see people and to serve our food. You know, with the food truck, it’s serving on disposable stuff, boats and plates and that kind of thing, which is awesome. But it’s so cool to be able to sit down and also give somebody ramen and an actual bowl along with floral or a glass of wine. Like that’s been really, really cool. And so we’ve just continued to expand on that. In our style, though, we change our menu frequently. We’re open limited hours, and we’re just kind of keeping rocking. And we’ve got plans for the food truck opening again this summer and just trying to kind of find them the best places to rock and roll that truck so people can get that food as often as they want.

Brent Hanifl 09:21
This past few years and everything has been you know, kind of scary, but I just remember be actually sitting in your location was one of the last restaurants I went to kind of like should we be in here was in between kind of stages of like the world’s ending sort of complete lock down in between that. What are we doing? But anyways?

Maria Norberg 09:40
Yes.

Brent Hanifl 09:42
What’s coming up? What’s next? Is there anything you’re excited for that’s coming up?

Maria Norberg 09:45
Yeah, you know, this summer. We’ve had so much wonderful support from our community for both Apothik and Grounded. And you know, the biggest challenge I mean, we have challenges that are very similar to everybody else in this industry, you know, labor’s hard to find, cost of goods, risers, all of that stuff that we can deep dive into. But people are out and they are excited to be out. So we are planning to pack our patio for the summer adding even more music and more art. We want to do more kind of themed style parties because let’s bring people together while it’s a thing. So I have an amazing staff of managers at Grounded they have tons of ideas for that kind of thing. No, it won’t happen this year. But one idea they had was Will It Be Fun? You know, all these kids get to do prom. But wouldn’t it be fun to do adult prom on the pad? You know, they’ve got all kinds of fun ideas. I don’t know if it’ll come to fruition, but definitely music, definitely art. And with Apothik we continue to add on to our menu and try different things. The truck will be out this summer. And we’re always trying to look at you know, what’s the trend that’s coming up next with the new thing that’s going to happen? We’re debating adding like a weekly sushi to our menu over there. We love the ethnic style thing. So we’re always looking for different twists on that, but we’re just excited and trying to fully staff for the summer so that we can keep bringing awesome unique dishes to the community.

Brent Hanifl 11:10
Well, I’m excited for that. So if someone wants to find out more, what’s the best avenue for them to follow along for? For Grounded, for Apothik, for anything else you’re up to?

Maria Norberg 11:18
Yeah, so you know we have a website along with the rest of the world but the most frequently updated of course, is social media. So Facebook and Instagram for both Apothik and Grounded are where our updates are most frequently. So and you’ll find that it’s Grounded Patio Cafe on Facebook and for Apothik its Apothik Eatery and Food Truck. We also have websites for both of them for Apothik it’s eatapothik.com. And for Grounded, it’s groundedpatiocafe.com.

Amy Gabay 11:52
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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