Gretchen Halverson loves her work.
Most days, she is in no hurry to go home.
“One more thing,” she says to herself.
Halverson is the owner of Little Fat Gretchen’s, in downtown Waupaca.
Her business is the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Rising Star Award winner.
The award is given to someone who has been in business between one and five years.
Halverson opened the café at 108 S. Main St. on Dec. 18, 2012.
She received the award on Tuesday, Jan. 28, when the Chamber held its annual awards program, at the Waupaca Ale House.
“I’m shocked, and I’m flattered,” Halverson said of winning the award. “It’s just an amazing thing.”
Before opening her restaurant, Halverson worked in a variety of settings.
She cooked for the residents of Garden Park House, made muffins for the guests who stayed at the Green Fountain Inn and also cooked at the Secret Garden Cafe.
Halverson studied the culinary arts at Fox Valley Technical College and then worked at Iola’s Crystal Café.
In between working at restaurants, she also served as the assistant manager of the Waupaca Thrift Store for a number of years.
Halverson considered starting her own business several times before opening the doors of Little Fat Gretchen’s in late 2012.
During the summer of that year, she learned through an email that the former Chez Marche Café was closing on South Main Street.
Soon, Halverson was preparing to open her own café.
Hammer City Carpentry did the remodeling.
And when it came time to decide on a name for the business, it was the idea of Halverson’s mother, Patty Vaux, to name it Little Fat Gretchen’s, which is the name of a book written in 1934 by Emma L. Brock.
Since green is a color featured in the book, Halverson chose a toned down shade of it for the color on the walls.
The artwork of local artists hangs on the walls.
In building the food menu, Halverson knew she wanted it to be about flavorful items.
Among the choices are Mexican and Greek items.
Halverson and her staff offer taste testing to customers who want an idea of what a particular soup tastes like.
In addition, customers are offered options when choosing items.
“We will change and do anything anyone wants,” she said. “It can be a wrap, salad, sandwich.”
Halverson’s desserts have been a big hit, from her pies and cakes to her brownies and cookies.
“That’s been my favorite thing to do,” she said.
She feels the community has embraced her and her business.
There are many “regulars” at Little Fat Gretchen’s, who enjoy sitting at the counter and watching the staff do their thing.
“Everybody congregates by the counter,” Halverson said. “It’s almost like we put on a little song and dance routine.”
The way her café is set up, customers are easily able to watch the food being prepared.
“I think it’s become the norm here. We are right smack in front of everyone all the time,” she said.
Her customers like it.
Speaking of customers, Halverson finds the age demographics of hers to be interesting.
“I have from high schoolers to the elderly to everything in between,” she said.
Now Halverson is planning to create an office and storage space in the lower level of the building.
She will have to close the restaurant for a few days when that happens and said that will take place before the end of February.
“I will have an office, which will be the most beautiful thing,” she said.
Halverson appreciates her landlord, John Ryan, saying she could not ask for a better one.
Of her business, she said, “It’s still new to me. I still learn something new every day, whether it’s about my staff, customers or the products.”
For many first-time customers, one particular question is always on their minds.
“A lot of people who are not from the area will say, ‘Is there really a Gretchen?’” Halverson said.
The replies Halverson hears after they are introduced to her are often the same.
“You’re not little, and you’re not fat,” they remark.
Halverson said, “That never gets old. It’s wonderful.”
Gretchen Halverson loves her work.