Ella Marie’s Cafe-n-Collectibles offers taste of home
Claudia Hanson can picture it like it was yesterday — “I was just a little tyke, and I remember how I loved listening in on their conversations,” said Hanson of the 4 o’clock afternoon coffee time that came every single day at her grandparents’ house.
“Grandma always had a piece of cake ready for me with a little whipped cream on top,” she said, smiling at what is obviously a warm memory.
But those memories aren’t all ancient history for Hanson, as she and her husband, Scott, are using them for inspiration to create something they hope is very similar.
It’s called “Ella Marie’s Cafe-n-Collectibles — a new business the two have recently started up just outside of Cormorant Village on Lake Ida.
Signs mark what appears to be a rather industrial-looking, metal-sided Foltz building right on the lake’s access on County Road 4.
What lies beyond those plain doors is anything but ordinary.
“It’s been fun to see the looks on people’s faces when they walk in because they’re so surprised at how cozy and quaint it is,” whispered Hanson as if she had the best-kept secret in town.
In fact, she just might.
The Hansons opened up Ella Marie’s in December, which gave them a nice, quiet start to their new venture.
Scott Hanson works remotely for US Bank from a back office in Ella Marie’s, while Claudia Hanson also still works part time as the clerk for Cormorant Township.
With the couple’s two children getting older, they decided now was the time to pursue something they’d always wanted — a business of their own.
“And we both love to have company; we love to cook and experiment with different recipes,” said Claudia, whose joy of entertaining came straight from her grandmothers on both sides of her family.
“Ella was my mom’s mom and Marie was my dad’s mom,” said Hanson, who along with her husband, thought a combination of their names would be perfect for their business.
It took a year to transform the building — which had been used as a builder’s showroom — into their vision.
“We wanted to have an old feeling to it,” said Claudia, who tapped into her eclectic taste to decorate the space in a warm, inviting, just-like-you’re-at-grandma’s-kind of a style.
Claudia and Scott Hanson put thought into every detail of Ella Marie’s, including the hodge-podge of dishes they had collected from various flea markets and antique stores.
The shop is open for breakfast and dinner right now with plans to extend hours for the summer. The Hansons say their menu is purposefully simple and fresh and truly unlike anything in the area.
Breakfast consists of the couple’s favorite egg bake of sausage, English muffin and chili, as well as yogurt parfaits, homemade rolls, scones/muffins and a unique dish called “Mahnomen Porridge”.
“And that is wild rice, dried blueberries and raspberries, crushed hazelnuts, real maple syrup and whole cream,” said Scott Hanson, laughing at how people typically have a hard time wrapping their heads around that combination of ingredients. “So we give out a lot of samples of that so that they know,” he said, “but it’s really, really good.”
Ella Marie’s lunch menu is made up of a variety of Panini sandwiches, homemade soups and their special slaw. “We shred butternut squash, put the coleslaw in it, and then it has a special sauce to it, what we call the ‘boom boom’ sauce,” said Claudia Hanson. “There’s a little heat and zip to it, but it’s not overpowering. It’s just fresh and different.”
Little beloved specialties of the Hansons sprinkle the menu, like grilled cheese, mac & cheese, homemade bars and cookies, hard ice cream, an all-naturally sweetened ice tea and Italian Cream Soda.
“And we can make those in any flavor…,” said Claudia Hanson, “…strawberry, raspberry, caramel, vanilla, and then we also have steamers for the kids that’s basically steamed milk and flavoring.”
The coffee being served up at Ella Marie’s is no regular cup of Joe either, as the Hansons had an espresso machine shipped directly from Italy and get their beans fresh from a top-of-the-line company in the Twin Cities that roasts them for every order the Hansons place.
Coffees like White Berry Java (white chocolate, raspberry and espresso) and Ida’s Delight (vanilla, coriander, espresso, milk and Hawaiian sea salt) make sitting down for a cup of coffee an experience rather than just a break.
“We love coffee; we love coffee shops, and there wasn’t one around here,” said Scott Hanson, glancing at the impressive list of lattes, mochas, espressos and coffees. “There was a need and there was niche.”
There is Wi-Fi available, as well as iPads attached to a couple of the tables for convenience.
And to make Ella Mari’s a well-rounded destination stop, the Hansons also converted part of the building into a shop where they sell unique collectibles, handmade scarves and mittens, jewelry, purses, antiques and more.
“About half of the things in there are made by local artists,” said Scott Hanson, “but Claudia has a big order in so we’ll be carrying a lot more very soon.”
Scott Hanson will also be adding on to the couple’s new business, too, as he plans to build a deck overlooking Lake Ida.
By the time the warm breezes are blowing, the Hansons will be able to serve wine from Ella Marie’s so that guests can lounge on that new deck and take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds them.
The Hansons say they do plan to expand their hours into the evening as well as a menu to accompany that.
“We’re trying out some different flatbreads and heavy appetizers right now,” said Claudia Hanson, adding that they will probably also open up on Sundays this summer.
The couple says pulling this whole thing together has been exhausting, but it’s also been everything they hoped it would be.
“Now I just wish our parents and grandparents could be here to see this,” said Claudia Hanson. “They would have loved it. We love it, and we just hope everybody else does, too.”
Ella Marie’s Café-n-Collectibles can be found on Facebook. It’s open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.