By Sue Moore
“We didn’t want to get out of our car to get coffee,” joked Rita Sertic. “So we thought we needed a drive-through coffee shop in Vicksburg.” That was the impetus for Sertic, her sister, Angela Palomaki, and mom, Paula Hochstetler, to open Windfall Coffeehouse at 625 W. Prairie Street in Vicksburg.
These three founded Apple Knockers Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Vicksburg nine years ago and have owned it since.
An apple knocker is someone who uses a long stick to knock apples from trees to gather them up. Over the decades it turned into a slang “Yooper” term for down-staters, like “redneck” or “country bumpkin,” describing folks who come up from the Lower Peninsula to hunt in the U.P. and set out piles of apples to fatten the deer throughout the season. When trying to decide on the name for the coffeehouse, Paula, Angela and Rita settled on Windfall, referring to an apple or other fruit blown down from a tree or bush by the wind. And since Windfall is just down the street from Apple Knockers, they thought it was fitting.
“We didn’t want to compete with ourselves at Apple Knockers, so we are offering more of a gourmet menu here at the coffeehouse. We did bring our chilis, soups and cornbread here, so people can get them all year round now,” Palomaki said. Windfall opened in early December and will stay open year round. Apple Knockers takes time off in the winter and will reopen in the middle of March.
Windfall took lots of thought and exploration from its inception two years ago, Sertic explained. The three are still tweaking their offerings as they gain feedback from their customers. They have added items to their breakfast menu, which is available all day. The lunch menu has been honed to showcase a nice array of items and soon will have a gourmet salad bar to go with the luscious sandwiches. “Our menu is small but really good, as we didn’t want to cut corners,” said Hochstetler. “The quality is important to us, so we want to offer the very best.”
“We went to a chef we trusted for his suggestions. He coached us on what would work at this location, then we started testing and tasting as we worked on the menu. There are no fryers here like at Apple Knockers, just fresh, gourmet food. We knew how to scoop ice cream but we were less sure of breakfast and lunch items for a coffeehouse,” Hochstetler said.
It’s the coffee that inspired Palomaki to become a trained and certified barista. The roaster they use, the Coffee Barrel, is located in Holt, south of Lansing. The company uses a unique roasting method called fluid bed air roasting, which is unlike traditional roasters. “It offers a much smoother, more flavorful blend. I can order a week’s supply of coffee on Monday and have it here the next morning so it is always fresh,” Palomaki said.
Windfall is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the weekdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Customers may call in their orders in advance at 269-315-5123 or order online through windfallcoffeehouse.com and use the convenience of their new pick up window. Coffees and a selection of grab-and-go items are available right at the window without any pre-ordering.
With one step inside the door of the coffeehouse, there is a “wow” factor. Their decorating is unique with found items in every nook and cranny. “We are successful hoarders,” Palomaki said with a laugh. “We were also gifted a lot of the artifacts that are on the walls and even the ceiling.” The focal point of the cozy dining area is a 150-year-old fireplace mantel that once graced a flower shop in Grand Rapids. It came from a collection of family friends Duane and Arlene DeYoung. The 20-foot ladder hanging from the ceiling as a light fixture was a gift from another family friend, Jack Matthews, and the list goes on. Palomaki even made the barn doors herself from scraps of lumber.
“We didn’t want to wash dishes, so we started out with paper cups and plastic plates and silverware. We soon realized that didn’t fit the type of food we wanted to serve,” Hochstetler said. “We have brought in glass plates from home now and have real plates on order. And the same with the coffee mugs. People were requesting real mugs, so we ordered a few and will keep on adding them as we can, along with real silverware.”
“As Apple Knockers was a work in progress, our vision for Windfall is customer-driven. We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience. Magic happens when all three of us can get together and brainstorm,” said Sertic. “Then we all jump in and work until the job gets done.”