Niles woman aims to honor late father with new Buchanan café

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, December 8, 2021

BUCHANAN — Behind the counter of her new café in downtown Buchanan, among trays of steaming cinnamon rolls and fresh-brewed cups of coffee, Niles resident Anne Lise Gustavsen keeps two things that are very important to her — the first dollar she made at her business and a framed photo of her late father, Willard.

“That’s him when he was in like seventh grade,” Gustavsen said, smiling at the black and white print.

Though her father may be gone, Gustavsen said his handprint can be found in nearly every aspect of her new business, which she hopes will honor his memory.

Gustavsen, 35, opened Gustavsen Café this week selling home-roasted coffee and Norwegian-style cinnamon rolls at 125 Days Ave., Buchanan. The building was bought, designed and renovated by her father before his death last April. As Gustavsen’s father was an inventor and former restaurant owner, he originally planned to use the space as a design studio. However, he and Gustavsen created a plan to work together to run a café after he fell ill a few years prior to his death.

“We had hoped to open while he was still here, but, unfortunately, we didn’t get quite there,” Gustavsen said. “At first [opening the café] was painful a bit because everyone here knew him and asked about him, and it made me sad, but now it’s probably going to be what helps me get through that. I have such an appreciation for him and what he’s done. I’m just really grateful for the way he’s set me up really well.”

Willard’s memory can be found even outside the café’s building and business model. The cinnamon rolls are a Norwegian recipe based on his Norwegian heritage, while the coffee is a pan-roasted Ethiopian style, a technique he taught his daughter after learning the process growing up as the son of Ethiopian missionaries.

“Ever since he started roasting his own coffee, I can’t do anything else,” Gustavsen said. “We are coffee people, and I know people around here appreciate a good cup of coffee.”

Though the cinnamon rolls and coffee are currently the only two items on the menu, Gustavsen said her café will gradually expand its offers to include other pastries, such as Norwegian cardamom buns, and may even eventually add sandwiches. No matter what she eventually includes, Gustavsen said she will make sure it is perfected before it ever reaches the plate of a customer.

“My dad always wanted to make sure things were done perfectly. He would think of an idea, and he would say, ‘I want to be the best in the world at it,’” Gustavsen recalled. “So I want to do just enough items that I am very, very good at it — maybe not at his level — but I want to be able to be proud of what I put out.”

Now that she is open, Gustavsen said she is looking forward to cementing her place in the same business community and hopes that her café can be a positive force in the community that honors her father’s legacy.

“I want to be able to contribute to the community even a fraction of what he did,” she said. “I don’t think I understood until he passed how much of an impact he had and how important it is to be present in your community.”

Gustavsen Café is currently open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Friday, and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Hours are subject to change, with extended hours to be offered in the warmer months.