Serving Coffee and a Side of Community
When Renee Waddell opened Respite Cappuccino Court as a single mom over 20 years ago, her goal was to provide for her family and realize a lifelong dream of owning her own business. She also wanted to create a place where locals are known by name and visitors are treated like friends. Today, Respite is far more than a spot to grab a latte and a quick bite to eat. It’s a local institution that offers a sense of community, encourages creativity, and fosters the spirit of collaboration that happens when people come together over a great cup of coffee. As the Respite website says, “It’s all about the little moments when life happens, and coffee helps.”
For Renee Waddell, being a woman and a small business owner was never something she considered a challenge. As a young girl growing up in a family of four girls and one boy, she was raised to believe she could do anything she set her mind to. After living in Germany and going through a divorce, Renee moved back home to Douglas with the dream of opening a coffee shop. While many single moms might have chosen a more stable route, Renee was undeterred. She wanted to find a way to support her young family and stay true to herself, knowing that she would only be happy in a job where she could put her creativity to good use.
What inspired you to open a coffee shop in Douglas?
I had been living in Germany and fell in love with the warmth and romance of the local restaurants and coffee shops. When I came back home, I wanted to capture the feeling of those places. I was born and raised in Douglas, and I’ve always loved the sense of community that it has. I wanted my coffee shop to be a place that caters to the locals but also makes visitors to the area feel welcome.
What makes Respite unique from other coffee shops in the area?
We are very community-oriented and care about people and meeting their needs. When creating menu items, I look at the places where many residents come from for inspiration. I study the menus of the best coffee shops and bakeries in places like Chicago and Detroit and create drinks and dishes inspired by those places.
My goal is to design a menu that makes room for everyone and uses the best quality ingredients from the area. For example, we don’t roast our coffee beans, but we partner with the top roaster in Michigan and use their beans to make incredible drinks. I also like to keep things simple. The atmosphere at Respite is very warm and welcoming. I want the shop to feel inviting to all types of people, so they can come in and feel at home.
How do you get inspiration for creating your menu?
I love to travel and get so inspired by the local cuisine. I took a trip to Denmark, where they have these amazing open-faced sandwiches. They are basically like pieces of art. So, I decided to start doing my sandwiches that way, keeping it simple but focusing on the presentation and quality of ingredients. I’m going to visit Japan soon, and I can’t wait to discover some new inspiration.
What is your favorite drink or treat on the menu?
I put a lot of thought and passion into my menu, so it’s hard to choose. I do love our yogurt bowl with homemade granola. Our Lemon Bars are also wonderful—we won an award for them. Our #1 food item on the menu is our Avocado Toast. For these, we use a generous amount of real avocado and top it with everything bagel seasoning. Another favorite is our grilled Tourist Wrap, which has egg, avocado, bacon, and cheddar cheese.
When it comes to beverages, it depends on my mood. In the morning, I often like to get a Doppio Con Panna, which is two shots of expresso topped with whipped cream. Sometimes I might go for an Oat Milk Latte or a Black Charcoal Mocha. That might sound unusual, but it’s made with real chocolate and charcoal, which is a great cleanser of the liver and kidneys.
What activities do you recommend when you have family or friends in town?
This happens a lot, and I keep a list based on the weather and the mood. People don’t realize that there are so many simple, inexpensive things to do in the area. You can’t really get bored. For example, even on a rainy day, you can be adventurous and hike at Saugatuck State Park. The lake is really beautiful in the rain. On a nice summer day, grab an ice cream at Charlie’s Round the Corner and walk along the docks in Saugatuck. You can read all the funny names of the yachts. Or take a bike ride out to Lakeshore Drive, which goes along Lake Michigan. The cliffs and views will remind you of something you’d see in California.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other women small business owners?
Growing up the way I did, I never once thought I couldn’t do something because I’m a woman. Looking back, I don’t think I realized how tenacious I was in opening up my business as a single mom with the cards stacked against me. And I think a big part of my success was always staying true to myself. I always pay attention to the competition and trends around me, but I won’t change for the world.