Local business owner fills gap the community didn't know it needed
22 Jul 2021
After seeing a need for a place for the community to gather, local Lake Mills resident Kelley Gau took action to build a coffee shop that opened in August of 2020.
Gau bought the lot, originally a grocery store, and was aware it would be a slow opening process. She took advantage of the pandemic and was able to accomplish a substantial amount of work during this time with the help of friends, family and community members.
Although the shop is located in small-town Iowa, Swallow Coffeehouse not only attracts regular local customers but even brings in regulars from Minnesota.
“I wanted a place for the community to gather and get to know each other for relationship building for sure,” said Gau. “Despite what’s being served or what’s being sold, it’s always about relationships.”
Still, Gau wanted to make the business not feel like you were walking into a small-town coffee shop. She displayed these aspects through the design, as well as by hosting events including live music, storytime and crafts and music to draw in the community.
Despite the business’s name, it also sells alcohol and has a gift shop to bring in extra revenue. While ordering for the gift shop, Gau makes a point to avoid ordering the same item twice and frequently purchases from local artists to show her support.
The opening process took two years to complete, the heftiest task being to gut and decorate the shop. Gau also used this time to learn how to make suitable coffee and to find supplies and suppliers.
One of the greatest aspects of gutting the lot was breaking the plaster off the wall. In this process, Gau believed keeping some of the original plaster and wallpaper fit her creative vision for the shop.
The next project for Swallow Coffeehouse is to have a commercial kitchen for Sunday brunch, which is currently in the fundraising stage.
“I’m just really grateful, really grateful for the opportunity to be able to do something that I like to do,” said Gau. “It’s hard work, long hours, lots of sleepless nights, but it’s worth it 100%.”