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Ancora Coffee has moved into the ground floor of The Boulevard after spending 10 years on the opposite side of the street and a block east in a 600-square-foot space next to a Klinke Cleaners.
The new 1,600-square-foot location provides enough space for owner Tori Gerding to add a full kitchen and tweak the business model for her company that has been a part of the Madison landscape for over 20 years. And it comes just a few weeks after she and her husband, Matt Gerding, co-owner of the Majestic Theatre, had their first baby, adding more excitement to the already demanding task of opening a new store.
"I have lots of good people around me and a hardworking staff," Tori Gerding said during one of her few breaks in the day. "Food-wise, (the previous location) was never there for me and I’ve always wanted more food. It's pretty cool to open something that I’ve been envisioning for four years and see it all play out."
Ancora also has a location on King Street that offers grab-and-go sandwiches and two small licensed locations at the Dane County Airport, but none offers the menu that is now available at the new location on University Avenue.
The Boulevard, a project by Flad Development & Investment Corp. and Knothe & Bruce Architects, is a four-story building with 38 upscale apartments, underground parking and 12,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor. The commercial tenants include Great Clips, Nails 4U, Tech Heroes, a Potbelly Sandwich Shop and what will soon be an expansive AT&T store.
The Ancora shop offers views of University Avenue, but like all of the other businesses in the development, the main entrance is on the backside of the building where there is a parking lot. This is where Gerding has a garage door that can be raised in warmer weather, opening to the shaded outdoor patio.
The interior features wood accents, custom-made tables with reclaimed wood, decorative pocket doors with windows salvaged from an old home in Maple Bluff and several wooden chairs that were painted in Gerding's garage.
But the biggest change is the kitchen, although Gerding is quite familiar with the chef.
Gerding is from the Manitowoc County farming community of Valders, about 50 miles south of Green Bay. Growing up, she and her family lived above a funeral home because it offered cheap rent. Her chef, Evan Braun, lived above the meat market in nearby Whitelaw where his father was a butcher. Braun had been in Chicago for the past eight years and was working at the Kanela Breakfast Club when he ran into Gerding while visiting in Madison.
Braun jumped at the chance to create a brunch menu from scratch with his own Mediterranean-leaning signature. It includes entrees like lamb shank hash, a Caprese omelet and the Buddha Bowl, a mix of quinoa, avocado, black beans, garlic hummus and sunflower seeds topped with an over-easy egg. The egg sandwiches can include ingredients like sriracha honey, havarti cheese, smoked ham, lox and black bean puree, while the salads can include baby kale, fresh mint, avocado, grapefruit and quinoa and whipped-herb feta.
Braun, 26, is also trying incorporate as many local ingredients as he can into his dishes.
"It's a lot of stuff I missed while I was away from Wisconsin," Braun said. "I wanted a lot of fresh ingredients."
Those ingredients include meats from Underground Meats in Madison, maple syrup from Marquardt's Tree Farm in Shawano County and fresh brown eggs from Yuppie Hill Poultry in Walworth County.
Gerding, 27, who purchased Ancora in 2013, said the project was "expansive" for her but she has no immediate plans to expand her other shop or look for more locations in the Madison area that is saturated with coffee shops. Her focus for now is on fine-tuning her new restaurant, taking care of her daughter and getting the word out about the new kitchen and expanded menu.
"We’ve never had a full kitchen, so finding a chef that I could trust was really important," Gerding said. "We really get each other and we're really happy how the kitchen is turning out. The biggest challenge is getting the public to know that we now offer these things."