A landscape of baked goods at an inviting counter.
Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
The new Stone Creek Factory Store is a looker. It’s easy to see why this project – inside an 1880s brick building neighboring the Amtrak station – took some 10 months to metamorphose. And it’s also natural, inside this ode to natural materials, to feel the Call of the Loiterer. Why be in a hurry? There are handsome seats facing the windows, at rustic wooden tables, and chairs arranged in circular fashion in front of a cozy-looking fireplace. Eric Resch, the local roaster’s founder, doesn’t call himself Chief Sip Slowly Officer for nothing.
The headquarters/baking facility/ninth café location cut the opening ribbon in early December, a few weeks after a crane lifted a 9-foot-wide, 400-pound Fiberglas coffee mug to its expressway-visible home atop the building. (It was designed by the same firm, Cedarburg’s Kubala Washatko Architects Inc., that took on Alterra’s Prospect Avenue and Riverwest locations.) A key component to this project – part of a two-year, $1.3 million expansion and renovation plan – was hiring an executive chef for the first time in the local coffee roaster’s 20-year life. That opened the door for Aaron Patin, who left SURG Restaurant Group, where he’d been working on the opening of 8-Twelve MVP Bar & Grill. No longer offering items from local bakeries like City Market, Stone Creek would launch its own line of muffins, scones, pastries, cookies and small cakes. There would be an emphasis, too, on local sourcing and seasonality.
The opening is interestingly timed. Alterra Coffee Roasters launched its 13,000-square-foot Bay View location – also the company’s home base for baking – last summer. Stone Creek’s Fifth Street digs are far more than an architecturally inviting café. It’s a massive experiment in branding. Besides housing the 1,500-square-foot kitchen for Patin and his baking crew, it is where Stone Creek performs all of its roasting operations. A second floor of seating doubles as a community room that’s available for private events. Yet another hook is the weekly factory tours – Sundays at noon (free) and Wednesdays at 4 p.m. ($10, which includes a half-pound of coffee, a baked good sample and a shot of espresso).
Stone Creek has had a few decades to build its coffee audience. And what goes better with a latte, cappuccino or cup of regular joe than a fresh, luscious pastry? The bakery arm continues to evolve, a message echoed by both Resch and Patin. Muffin and scone flavors are intended to change. Of the huckleberry, banana-buckwheat and matcha tea muffin varieties on the first menu, the best – most tender and flavorful – was the matcha tea. (I hope they dispense with the parchment liners for the muffins, which are pesky to remove.) Other highlights are the flaky butter croissants, Quark cheese-marinated tomato Danish and citrus-fennel biscotti. In time, Patin hopes to move into “items that could pass for lunch,” by which he means savory stuffed breads and tarts, and quiches. Even if not integral, additions and further honing will be welcome.
The Factory Store is an impressive space, one that deserves as much as attention as the roof’s beacon-like coffee cup.