By Mary Boyle
For the past 17 years, Aaron Rossmiller and Kat Chronis have been running at least one version of Lakeside Music & Naturals – a venture that has combined both of their interests in one business: one part music store (offering instruments for sale, lessons, repairs & appraisals) and one part natural childrens store/boutique (offering everything from wooden toy instruments to fair trade jewelry and clothing, to personal care products made with natural ingredients). Music, though, is what has tied it all together, from the concerts they attend on a regular basis to the Music Together classes for young children that Kat has been offering for the past several years.
After the couple opened their first store in Sheboygan in 2005, they spent several years trying to find the right location in Ozaukee County, beginning at the Cedar Creek Settlement and then trying two different locations in Grafton, but they couldn't find the right fit. Interestingly, it was another mutual love that brought them to Port Washington: coffee. A manager at the Smith Bros. Coffee House, who regularly hosted live music and was a customer of theirs, told them about a space opening up across the street. Regular visits to Smith Bros. saw them through the growth of their store, Kat's music classes for children, the birth of their second child, hours of Kat's grad school work, adopting a new puppy, and the opening of a third store in Manitowoc. Then, Smith Bros. closed in September of 2021.
"Downtown traffic dropped after Smith Bros. left," Kat said. "You did not have the people walking through like you once did."
With their convenient coffee supply gone and reduced traffic to their store, the couple decided to start yet another venture: a coffee shop of their own inside Lakeside Music & Naturals. The name, Banjo's Brews Coffee, comes from the rescue pup they adopted, whom they aptly named Banjo Kazoo. They sourced their fair trade organic coffee from local Milwaukee roasters, Colectivo (the same coffee roaster Smith Bros. used) and Aaron, himself, has not only built the counters and set up the kitchen, but he's also the one making their bakery.
Music remains the theme, even for the coffee shop. The menu offers "Classicals" (such as a cappucino, latte or Americano) or "Melodies" (such as fruit smoothies or frozen lemonade); drink specials are named with musical inspiration, such as this week's "blackbird," a frozen blackberry lemonade slushie that is delightful and refreshing. Regular live music is something the couple really hopes to add to the Banjo's Brews schedule, along with soups and sandwiches, come fall. The focus of the menu will be plant-based and cater to vegetarians, vegans, and those with other dietary restrictions.
Although the opening took a bit longer than they'd expected, it came just in the nick of time: Kat is due with the couple's third child on September 11th and is about to start her final year of grad school, which will make her a family nurse practitioner when she's done. If anybody needs coffee, it's these people. For now, they're working out the kinks, continuing to work on the space, and planning for their Grand Opening, which will take place on Saturday, August 27th from noon to 4 p.m., where they'll be offering delicious bakery for both people and their dogs, as well as live music from 2-4 p.m. from the students of Annette Meyer Studio in Grafton. Ten percent of the bakery and drink proceeds from the day will go to the Ozaukee Campus of the Wisconsin Humane Society.
For more information about Lakeside Music & Naturals and all they have to offer, go to www.lakesidemusicstore.com/. To keep up with what's happening at Banjo's Brews, go to www.facebook.com/banjosbrewscoffee.