Owner celebrates first anniversary at Cronies
By Angie Landsverk
Adam White describes himself as a combination of cook and mad scientist.
He says there is a reason it says “Try something different” on the T-shirts worn by his employees at Cronies Cafe & Espresso Bar, in downtown Waupaca.
“I want people to step out of their comfort zone and at least try it,” White said. “I have a vision for this place – to take exciting, casual dining and mold it together with the world.”
Friday, April 1 marks one year since White and his wife, Alyssa, became the owners of the business.
White grew up in the restaurant industry, with his parents and grandparents running supper clubs in the Fox Valley.
“I started working as a busboy when I was 12. By the time I had graduated from high school, I had worked in the front of the house and the back of the house,” he said.
White said he realized he wanted to work in the industry when he was in high school and “would rather be in the restaurant than hanging out with my friends.”
After high school, he figured “if I was going to do this industry, I needed to get out of Wisconsin and see how other people live and eat.”
As he searched for the best culinary schools in the country, one name kept popping up – the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York.
That is where White went, graduating with an associate’s degree from the two-year program.
He then returned to Wisconsin to pursue a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
“My mom’s a teacher. She instilled at an early age that she didn’t care what I got a degree in but that I needed to. I wanted to have the most in my arsenal,” White said.
At the time, he was unsure if he wanted to to manage a hotel or a restaurant.
“I left there early to take a job at the Waupaca Country Club in 2009. That is how I ended up in Waupaca,” he said.
White worked there several years, followed by working for a food service and managing a corporate restaurant.
With his wife working in human resources at Waupaca Foundry, the couple wanted to plant roots in Waupaca.
He then had the opportunity to work at Simpson’s Restaurant for a year before the opportunity to buy his own place came along.
“I think everybody dreams of being their own boss,” White said. “More so, it was to be able to creatively go places where I wouldn’t otherwise be able to unless it was completely my own risk.”
With Cronies an established business a number of years, he did not want to change what it is known for, such as its high end coffee and coffee drinks.
“I had all kinds of ideas for food. I wanted to be able to give people an option, to give people something they wouldn’t find anywhere else in town,” White said.
His food is very vegetable based, and he tries to stay along the lines of giving people healthy options, while also mixing it up a bit by giving people ingredients from different parts of the world.
White’s goal is to take all the technique and discipline he learned in fine dining and incorporate it into everything he does in his business.
“I wanted to put together a menu of things I enjoy eating that I thought others would enjoy, too,” he said.
White wants to make everything from scratch he can.
The buns for the cheeseburgers are baked from scratch every day.
“I think you need to be very sensitive about what you put into your body,” White said. “I feel it is our responsibility to serve the best, locally sustainable sourced products we can. Our grassfed beef is from a local farmer.”
When produce is in season, local farmers arrive at Cronies’ back door each day.
“I will continue to find small ways to give people an unexpected experience,” White said.
In addition to adding new menu items, he also brought in a point of sale system last year and trained his staff to streamline things in the kitchen and in the front of the house, to make service faster and efficient.
White did that so people on a short lunch break feel comfortable they can get in and out in the time they need to.
“My next move is to incorporate a weekly, rotating brunch menu,” he said.
That is an example of White listening to the requests of his customers for breakfast after lunch.
He already created what he refers to as “breakfast milk,” which he will incorporate into some of the brunch items.
“It’s my playful side,” he said.
Also in the works is his own hot sauce, getting more into craft beer and doing something with outdoor seating.
While Cronies offers an eclectic, fun, relaxed atmosphere, White says, “At the same time, I’m very focused and driven to give people something new and something that is done with precision and finesse.”
He will continue to raise the bar and take risks in his business and said people may follow Cronies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“What I wanted to do is put my own personality on the place,” White said.
He did so with menu changes, a new logo and rebranding.
As he approaches his first anniversary in business, White said, “I want to be the place everyone is talking about, a reason for people who might not live in Waupaca to come to Waupaca. I want to be the place that you don’t find in every town. I want to intentionally go out of my way to be different.”
He enjoys being his own boss and being part of the community.
“You can still come in here and get that morning latte on your way to work,” White said. “Nothing about that really changed. I just injected the place with a little bit of me.”