By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 08, 2024 at 11:01 AM

Since 2018, at least three proposals have been submitted and subsequently rejected for the two-story, 14,700-square-foot building at 6330 W. North Ave.

However, a successful proposal was presented to the city in 2023 to transform the building into Idyll Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop, roasting facility and community hub. And that plan is moving forward.

Behind the project are two couples: Karen Kurgan and Peter Sohnle and Dave and Amy Tamburrino. They’ve enlisted Galbraith Carnahan Architects and Dahlman Construction to assist in redeveloping the property.

“There’s quite a bit of work involved in taking an office building and renovating it,” says Sohnle. “But we’re really proud to be repurposing an existing building and adding to the neighborhood.  I think it was Architect Carl Elefante who said it best: ‘The greenest building is the one that already exists’.”

If all goes well, Idyll Coffee could open to the public in spring of 2025.

Idyll Coffee Roasters LogoX

Four owners, one mission

Karen Kurgan says the idea of owning a coffee shop has been brewing in her mind for years. The Wauwatosa native spent the past twelve years in the coffee industry, starting with Alterra in 2002 and growing with the company through their 2013 rebrand as Colectivo and opening cafes in both Milwaukee and Madison.

“I love the coffee, the people, the culture,” Kurgan says. “But I really wanted to get back to the smaller cafe-type environment, and I’ve always wanted to delve into the art of roasting coffee.”

She shared her dream with her husband Pete Sohnle, a lumber inspector for the NorthEastern Lumber Manufacturer’s Association, and both kept their eyes open for spaces that might be appropriate for an independent coffee shop. But it wasn’t until Nick Carnahan of Galbraith Carnahan Architects pointed out North Avenue property to Sohnle that the partners saw a place with true potential for that vision.

Even better, it was located in a neighborhood that all four partners had seen grow and develop over the course of 30+ years.

Sohnle and his sister Amy [Tamburrino] had grown up in Wauwatosa. They were a speed skating family whose home was often a haven for skaters who trained at the Pettit National Ice Center.  That’s how Dave Tamburrino entered the picture. He’d moved to the area from the East Coast in 1990 to skate with the West Allis Speedskating Club (now the Wisconsin Speed Skating Club). He and Amy skated with the U.S. National Speed Skating Team and Dave would go on to compete in the 1994 and 1998 Olympic Games as a speedskater.

Over the years, the two would get married and pursue careers outside of the skating arena. Amy is a Medical College of Wisconsin graduate and mission-oriented OB-GYN who is the director of the Women’s Outreach Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Co-Director of the OB-GYN residency program. 

Her passion for supporting women will feed into the work of Idyll Coffee through support for programs like Project Alianza, an organization that partners with coffee farms in Central and South America to provide academic resources for the children of migrant workers, particularly young women. 

Meanwhile Dave, a Marquette University Law School graduate and adjunct faculty member in the College of Business, will use his business acumen to contribute to day-to-day operations at the cafe alongside Kurgan.

To advance their knowledge, they’ve hired longtime coffee roaster and Company Brewing Owner George Bregar as a consultant on the project to assist them in dialing their roasting skills and honing a plan for operations.

The vision

Plans for the 14,000 square foot building include a roastery on the eastern side of the building along with a cafe, a cupping lab and event space. 

Kurgan says they’re focusing on biophilic design for the look and feel of the space, which will incorporate elements like natural light, ventilation and natural landscape features that pull the outdoors inside. 

Idyll Coffee Roasters rendering by Galbraith Carnahan Architects
Idyll Coffee Roasters rendering by Galbraith Carnahan Architects

“We’re focused on using repurposed materials,” she says, “And we’re really concentrating on creating an environment that promotes a positive impact on health and well-being.”  

But Sohnle says that the meaning behind the name Idyll Coffee is really the driver for the brand.

“The word means ‘a peaceful picturesque scene that is ideal, but unsustainable’,” he says. “But we envision it to play out as those short, fleeting moments that feel perfect…You wake up every morning looking forward to that sip of coffee, and that’s a special moment. Coffee shops and cafes bring people those moments.” 

Tamburrino nods. “You don’t need to spend a lot of money on coffee, and our goal is to have something that appeals to someone. But, coffee has gone from being this utilitarian thing to being a specialty item and a ritual, so we’re looking forward to offering people the opportunity to learn more about where their coffee comes from.” 

To that end, Kurgan says they are looking forward to getting involved with both the local East Tosa community and the larger coffee community that exists nationally. “We’re also looking forward to buying and roasting coffees from woman-owned farms,” she says.

All four partners note that being able to establish the Idyll Coffee Roasters brand in East Tosa is an opportunity for which they’re grateful.

“For us there’s a real sense of nostalgia here in East Tosa,” says Tamburrino. “We’ve all seen things change and develop for the better, and it’s been exciting to watch the area becoming a destination. We’ve had a really great experience working with the city, the mayor and with Galbraith Carnahan, and we can’t wait to bring our vision for this building to life.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.