About Us

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Our Story

Bella Caffe’ opened our doors on January 15, 2001. We began with the partnership of Jim Nowlen and Tim Talsky; two IT guys who love the feel of a coffeehouse, and have a passion for well selected, well brewed coffee. We like coffeehouses because they are a place read, visit with friends, talk about a wide variety of subjects and generally relax from our daily endeavors. We have always been grateful to the guidance of Ward and Lincoln Fowler, brothers behind what was then Alterra Coffee Roasters. They were instrumental in helping us put aside our “IT Guy” minds in favor of “Coffee Guy” minds. We enjoy a warm friendship with them to this day even though over time we moved to a different roaster. That was a natural outflow of our becoming “Coffee guys”… We developed our own pallet for coffee – and any true coffeehouse serves a coffee the owner finds delightful. This is not to imply a dislike for other coffee house’s coffee; just that we love the unique character each owner creates. We desire to share our best coffee along with our relaxing space with our friends and customers.

While our vision was to “be a coffeehouse”; demands of the growing Historic Third Ward pulled us into becoming a restaurant as well. We serve not just scones with our coffee, but also unique, delicious food that was an alternative from our neighboring restaurateurs. So we also became a “soup and sandwich” place – but have other wonderful menu items beyond which delight our taste buds every time we enjoy them. I believe our quiche, our baked oatmeal, and our grilled Rueben sandwich are at the top of the list of “best”. Our soups are fresh made, never frozen here in Milwaukee. We offer other beverages beyond coffee; and recently are pleased to sell Tapuat Kombucha (brewed in Door County, WI). We love new desserts and try to have something new in the case often; while keeping some Bella Caffe’ classics around as well.

Regrettably, Tim passed away suddenly in early 2015 right about the time Jim was anticipating retirement. Jim quickly changed plans, and retained a talented CFO, Rich Witkowski, who helped not only ensure the immediate financial health of Bella Caffe’; but helped us evolve to the Bella Caffe’ you enjoy today.

In 2016 we began an ambitious renovation project with the goal of remaining open throughout the project. Our work began one night in January 2016 with the new soup serving area which essentially made the worklife of Bella Caffe’s awesome staff much easier. We had to close two days in July (during Summerfest) to meet drying/cure times of our new entryway floor. Work on physical renovations completed in November 2016. The entire project completes with this new mobile friendly website.

Bella Caffe’ is a small, independent business, and in our renovation we enjoyed the able assistance of other small businesses:

  • Arrows Electric
  • Cannestra web
  • Eppstein Uhen Architects
  • Flowquest Design/Build
  • Kohls Carpet and Flooring
  • MI Metal Finishing
  • Scathain Design/Build
  • Scott Baron Design

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