New coffee shop energizes downtown Monona with caffeine and creativity

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Chad and Ande Davies, pictured with daughter Mel Crook, opened Driftless Harvest in May. In just a short month, the Monona business has become a destination for its full line of coffees, energy drinks and specialty lemonades, as well as frozen yogurt, parfaits, hot breakfasts and daily lunch specials. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Driftless Harvest is located at 106 W. Center St., in downtown Monona. The Davies family renovated the building over seven months, turning the once-vacant space into a charming coffee shop.

“It’s helped bring the community together," said Mel Crook, who works at Driftless Harvest with her parents. "I’ve been meeting a lot of the older folks who come in, and they are all really sweet."

Specialty lemonades are one of the signature drinks at Driftless Harvest in Monona.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

A new coffee shop is energizing downtown Monona—not only with caffeine, but with fun and unique ideas.

 

Owners Ande and Chad Davies, along with their teenage children, opened Driftless Harvest at 106 W. Center St., in early May. The business name pays homage to Monona’s location in the Driftless Area as well as its agricultural roots.

 

“We felt that expressed who we are,” said Ande, a food industry veteran who’s previously been a caterer, server, manager and prep chef. 

 

“This has been my dream for 25 years. Since I graduated from high school, I’ve wanted my own cafe,” Ande continued. “I’ve been studying a lot, and had a lot of experience before this. Chad decided to quit working in the technology industry to go on this venture with me.”

 

The family moved to Monona in 2020, selecting the community because of Ande’s ties to the area and its sound infrastructure and broadband internet connectivity. 

 

They also felt Monona was ready for a business like theirs.

 

“Monona didn’t have a coffee shop, anywhere with hot breakfast to eat in. We heard a lot of positive things that it was what people wanted,” Ande said. “We thought, ‘There are a lot of [buildings] that could use that revival.’”

 

With encouragement from building owner Nathan Trappe, the couple started work seven months ago. It’s been a top to bottom renovation, turning a space that was vacant around 10 years and most recently used for storage into a charming coffee shop.

 

“Everything in here was done by us. We brought in all our own materials, everything down to we made our own tables. The walls on the front, we made our own marquis, we brought back the original tin ceilings,” Ande detailed. “We found things one by one that made it even more endearing and drove us to put more effort into it.”

 

She said 10 years of vacancy can look scary to people because they often don’t know where to start.

 

“So we just started. It showed us the way, with what could work and what wasn’t going to work. We learned how to work with our building,” she shared. “This gave us a chance to flex our construction muscles as well as our creative muscles. And it was worth it to renovate it and do it right. We thought Monona deserved something unique.”

 

May 5 was Driftless Harvest’s first official day. In just a short month, the location has become a destination for its full line of coffees, energy drinks and specialty lemonades.

 

“The bomb pop lemonade is really popular. It’s so nostalgic—like the frozen treat, only you can drink it,” said Ande.

 

The business also offers Country View Dairy frozen yogurt, parfaits and fresh baked scones along with hot breakfasts and daily lunch specials.

 

Breakfast items have included burritos, muffin sandwiches and Texas toast sandwiches with ham, eggs and cheese. A toasted club sandwich, chicken fajita salad and hot ham and cheese are just a sampling of the lunch offerings. 

 

“We offer fruit cups with all sandwiches, sometimes a baked potato bar, occasionally a casserole. It depends on what we’re feeling and what people are asking for,” Ande said.

 

Online ordering is available through the Toast website and app. It’s been a popular service, especially for local teens and businesses, according to Ande.

 

“Then we have it ready here for you,” she said. “We also do business to business delivery.”

 

Another popular offering is Driftless Harvest’s “pay it forward” specialty coffee drinks in support of local organizations.

 

For example, $1 from every sale of the Hook and Ladder, a brown sugar cinnamon latte with caramel syrup, whipped topping and Mexican chocolate, goes to the Monona Volunteer Fire Department. The companion drink, the Saving Grace, aids the MFL Ambulance Service. It is based off a snickerdoodle cookie with a french vanilla cinnamon latte, caramel syrup, whipped topping and cinnamon sugar dust on top. 

 

“The Campside is a toasted marshmallow latte with chocolate syrup, whipped topping and crushed graham crackers on top—kind of like s’mores in a cup. It goes to the Friends of the Arts at MFL MarMac,” Chad explained. “Then the Cheery Mocha is a cherry mocha with chocolate syrup, whipped topping and a maraschino cherry on top. It goes to the Seva Health Center for Wellbeing.”

 

The most recent creation, the Cuppa Joy, is based on the Almond Joy. It’s an almond and coconut latte with chocolate syrup, whipped topping and coconut sprinkles, and will support Friends Helping Friends MFL MarMac.

 

“It’s a fun way for us to help everybody give back to the community without asking for them to come up with another donation out of their own pocket. We don’t have to ask you for that extra dollar—it’s included in the price and we give you an extra nice drink for it,” Ande said. “It’s been really successful. We’re up to over $300 in donations to the different charities, in just a few weeks. And we have ideas waiting for somebody to adopt.”

 

Driftless Harvest hopes to become even more involved with the community through special activities like Tasting and Tapas and a Doggie Dine and Dash with pup cups and watermelon slices. They’re also considering Saturday open mic events and game and craft nights.

 

“We’re looking to be fun—not just be a coffee shop, but a place to do something,” stated Ande. “We have a lot of people who want to hang out and chat, and that is great for us. That’s what we created this space for. We knew that was something the community was missing: that place in the morning to hang out. Then, in the afternoons, there’s more of a teenage crowd.”

 

“We’ve enjoyed getting to meet everybody and interact with everybody,” Ande added. “All these interesting conversations blend together and we have a really interesting view on what the community is and what they know.”

 

Ande and Chad’s daughter, Mel Crook, agreed.

 

“It’s helped bring the community together. I’ve been meeting a lot of the older folks who come in, and they are all really sweet,” she said.

 

Driftless Harvest has appreciated the support not only from the community, but fellow businesses, Monona Chamber and Economic Development, Inc., and Clayton County Development Group. 

 

“It’s reaffirming and makes us feel like we chose right when we had anywhere to pick when COVID hit,” Ande reflected. “We had a lot of trepidation. You always hope somebody is going to love what you’ve put your heart and soul into. But we’ve gotten such positive feedback. It drives us harder to do more and fill the needs we can.”

 

She and Chad hope their efforts inspire other entrepreneurs to consider Monona.

 

“Our bravery has been good for us, and we hope it shows other people that we’re ready as a community. We’re ready for revival, and we’re here to support each other,” Ande said. “There’s plenty of room for other businesses to come in.”

 

Driftless Harvest’s summer hours are Mondays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., then 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Check out the Driftless Harvest Facebook page for menu and online ordering details.

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