A semester studying abroad in Greece ended up changing the career directions of Jamie Burns and Michael Rietveld.
Rietveld always thought he would be a teacher, while Burns figured he would work in marketing.
Today, they are bringing their experiences and flavor to The Freckled Frogg as the cafe’s new owners.
“Here we are. It’s been pretty fun,” Burns said.
The cousins were born a month apart and grew up about two blocks from each other in Appleton.
After high school, Rietveld headed to Indiana University to study history, and Burns went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to major in marketing.
Indiana University has a sister campus in Greece, and Rietveld decided to spend his final semester of college studying there.
Soon, Burns decided to do the same.
Their adventure in cooking began when they wanted to make chicken burritos and had to buy a whole chicken to do so.
“We had to go down to the roots of what food is all about. That is how it all started,” Burns said.
Rietveld said, “Every day, we went to the fresh food market. It was cool picking out your ingredients fresh and daily.”
After their time in Athens, neither wanted to go home.
They had their degrees and decided to move to Santorini Island, where they quickly found jobs at a bar.
By the end of summer, they were managing its restaurant.
They became friends with people from Australia and New Zealand and were soon asked, “Why don’t you come to Australia to us?”
And, so they did.
In addition to Australia, the two cousins traveled to Europe and Asia.
“The main way to talk to people about their culture is through food or religion,” Burns said.
Rietveld said dinners often lasted three hours.
During their time in Australia, they managed cocktail bars and worked in cafes, where they picked up tips and tricks.
They were in Laos late last year when they heard The Freckled Frogg was for sale.
“Before we even moved to Santorini, we talked about coming back and opening a cafe, maybe in Waupaca, Eagle River or Tomahawk,” Rietveld said.
Burns said they could not do that in Waupaca, because The Freckled Frogg was already there.
He was familiar with the cafe, because his sister, Carlie, had worked there.
In addition, his parents, Ryan and Susan Burns, had dined there annualy to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
They heard it was closing.
“Michael and I just kind of looked at each other. This is really weird,” Burns said.
The two 26 year olds share many of the philosophies Sandi Schuettpelz has of being green, using fresh produce and shopping local.
“We sent out a feeler email to Sandi. We said, ‘We heard you’re selling and would like to inquire.’ We thought it was somethng we could definitely do,” Burns said.
That was in December, and they closed on the property on April 5.
Burns’ father, who grew up in Waupaca, helped with the financing, and Rietveld’s parents, Don and and Carol Rietveld, have also been supportive.
On May 1, The Freckled Frogg opened for the season.
First, Burns and Rietveld trained with Schuettpelz for about a month to master the food art techniques.
The cafe is open daily from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., and they recently introduced a wine bar, Madame Frogg’s, which is open from 6-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, featuring appetizers, wine and beer.
“Other than food, are passions are coffee and wine,” Rietveld said.
When it comes to the cafe’s menu, they try to change it out every three to four days.
“We try to focus on the freshest produce we can get our hands on,” Rietveld said.
They are connecting with local farmers, hanging wall planters outside the cafe and cottage next door and want to eventually start a Sunday morning farm market on the strip in King.
“We try to cook everything we possibly can from scratch,” Rietveld said. “We try to be as self sustaining as possible.”
They said the community has been welcoming, supportive and receptive. They encourage their customers to rate their cafe on Trip Advisor.
In addition to parking by the cafe, people may park across the street, at the former Amherst Coffee Company.
To make a reservation, call them at 715-942-2644.
“We’re very excited,” Burns said, “And this is just the beginning.”