Take a Drive Thru & Smell The Coffee at Seth's Coffee & Bake Shop
Mindfully prepared with great care, a latté at Seth’s Coffee & Bake Shop will have you slowly sipping away the morning. The space has its roots based in the less speedy coffee traditions of Europe. It bids you to bide your time here, as many regulars seem to do.
Owner of the popular coffee house in Little Chute, Seth Lenz felt inspired to open shop after his travels through Europe and attending Bible school in both England and Austria. He witnessed the way coffee wove together the culture and realized what drew him to it was more about the soulful experience than the coffee itself.
“In Europe, people would stand and there weren’t any to-go cups. I wish I could get away with that! But we do have a few people who will stand and drink their coffee from a ceramic mug at the drive-thru. It’s great.”
Lenz incorporates some of the traditions of European coffee into his menu that you may not find elsewhere, such as a traditional three-ounce macchiato and a traditional cappuccino.
“I found the coffee in Europe to be a little too streamlined,” says Lenz. “I studied on my own. I read coffee blogs, magazines and ultimately went through a lot of trial and error to create the craft coffee we serve today.”
Appleton gained a drive-thru spot last fall when Lenz decided to spread the love of coffee, opening his second location downtown on East Washington Street.
“Nearly 95% of what I love about working in a coffee shop is talking to people,” says Lenz. “So there is obviously less of that at the drive-thru. I chat for a few seconds with a customer and then it’s on to the next car. But we are still able to brew quality coffee in small batches.”
Getting your caffeine on-the-go usually doesn’t mean you’re getting a hand-crafted coffee, but Lenz and his crew managed to create a system that delivers fresh, artisan drinks to drive-thru customers with less wait time than a standard coffee shop.
“We brew a liter, which is about four medium coffees, at a time,” explains Lenz. “So sometimes there will still be a little waiting, but definitely less than at a sit-down shop. If it doesn’t sell within 30 minutes, we dump it. So what you’re getting is always fresh.”
Appleton has a limited number of drive-thru coffee shops, but that isn’t the only thing that has kept business steadily growing.
“We have a lot of cross-promotion between our locations which is great because I don’t like to do much advertising,” said Lenz. “Customers who show up at our drive-thru have often heard of us for years, but never make it out to Little Chute, so it’s exciting for them to finally get a taste of our coffee.”
The real test for the drive-thru was when Lawrence let out for the summer and the main source of business (students) weren’t there. But they aren’t they only ones who love their caffeine and the spot continued to steadily grow.
“Proximity-wise, it’s the closest drive-thru for anyone downtown,” says Lenz. “We recently bought a house a few blocks away and I have to say I rarely make coffee at home anymore. My wife stops by the drive-thru nearly everyday, too.”
Lenz met his wife Kate when he hired her as a potter to make ceramic mugs for the shop in 2009. The two began dating, were married shortly after, and are now expecting their fourth child.
“I prioritize my family over my business and I don’t work over 40 hours a week,” says Lenz. “Part of the reason I think I am able to step away and give my family what they need is because I know my employees’ lives are important, too. I want them to also have a healthy balance of work and life.”
While raising children does leave less time for creating, all drinks are still served in pottery hand-made by Kate, adding to the family element Seth’s Coffee has to offer.
“When Kate gets a break from mothering our kids, she will do pottery,” says Seth. “It’s therapeutic for her. You can sit down, listen to a podcast, use your hands and not think. I wish I was a potter! When I watch her do it, I feel rested. She takes a lump of clay and makes it gorgeous.”