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Good coffee and great food

Brooke Wenzel and her husband, Courtney, bought Sunflower Hill more than two years ago and changed the name to La Barista. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 2
La Barista owner Brooke Wenzel said Detroit Lakes provides a great opportunity for a small business to thrive. "People appreciate the Mom and Pop places," she said. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 2

Between the coffee making and panini serving, in just a couple weeks, Brooke Wenzel will have one more thing to juggle into her busy schedule -- her first child.

Two and a half years ago, Wenzel and her husband, Courtney, purchased Sunflower Hill in the Washington Square Mall and renamed it La Barista.

Barista is the Italian name for someone who makes coffee, which she said is now kind of an oxymoron since their lunch business has taken off more than they ever thought it would.

"It's been so good," she said of the business.

After graduating from college in Wisconsin where she grew up with a degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management, Brooke met her future husband when they worked for the same hotel. He was the chef there.

They lived in the Twin Cities for 10 years, both working at different businesses, which have both since closed. They decided to head north before that because Courtney's parents are from the Perham area, and he grew up there.

"We wanted a slower pace and to start a family," she said.

Then La Barista just kind of happened.

"Our big dream is to have a sitdown, full service restaurant," she said.

But instead, they started out small with the coffee shop and made some changes, building a flourishing business.

"I wasn't the biggest coffee drinker," she said, which just added to the irony of buying a coffee shop rather than a restaurant as planned.

"You always have to start somewhere," she said.

Courtney worked full time as a chef at a different job in town until the La Barista business grew big enough to support both of the Wenzels, and for Brooke to need her husband cooking for her instead of someone else in town.

"I wouldn't be able to do it without him."

The summers have been extremely busy at the coffee shop, and with the approval of the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area project, Wenzel thinks it will certainly add business to the coffee shop and other downtown businesses in the winter months.

"It's more than a full-time job. You can't leave town, and you're always thinking about it," she said of running a business.

Being there full-time, Wenzel said she sees many repeat customers and gets to know most people -- and what they drink.

She said there are regulars who come at the same time every day and she can start to make their drinks before they even order because she knows what they want.

"It's a great community and opportunity for small businesses," she said of Detroit Lakes. "People appreciate the Mom and Pop places."

And one day, the plan is still to have that full-service restaurant in town, especially since her husband is a chef and only gets to make paninis right now, she said with a laugh.

"He would like to showcase more of his skills."

And after the baby comes -- Wenzel said she knows she's having a girl because she's too much of a planner not to know -- she will take some time off and then have the nursery set up in the office at La Barista.

By age 5, Wenzel's little girl may be making coffee drinks, too.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.