SHOP LOCAL: Meet the Mom Behind…is a new series designed to introduce you to local businesses in the Madison area that you may or may not be familiar with, along with the moms who run them!
When you shop local, you not only stimulate the local economy, but you are also directly supporting people who are our friends and neighbors. Not to mention, small businesses diversify our options as consumers, in addition to the big box stores you find in many communities.
As a full-time working mom, it never ceases to amaze me when I meet other moms who run their own businesses. I often wonder what day-to-day life is like as a female entrepreneur, particularly when most moms are also the ones running their household, to a certain extent as well.
One such mom, is Cait Sirianni, owner of Crescendo Espresso Bar + Music Cafe, a local coffee shop with two locations in Madison. Crescendo first opened on Monroe Street in March of 2013. They opened a second location in Hilldale Mall in October 2018.
I met Cait nearly a decade ago, when she sang at an event I attended at Capital Brewery. Because yep, add to her list of many talents – she is an amazing singer/songwriter as well.
We’ve ran into each other several times at Crescendo throughout the years since. So, when our paths crossed again recently at a park in my neighborhood, where our two 4-year old boys happily played together, we agreed the universe was sending us signs that we should probably be friends.
After our chance encounter in the park, I decided to interview Cait, to learn more about how she got into the coffee business, and what it’s like to be a momtrepreneur. Check out her story below in the first installment of SHOP LOCAL.
Tell us a little bit about your background…what lead you to open a coffee shop?
I have been working in food service since my very first job at 14-years-old working at the Windsor A&W! However, I started working in coffee in tandem with trying to launch a music career. I found that I could work an 8-hour day and be done by 2 p.m., which left me plenty of time to play music in the evenings. As a result, I fell in love with the culture and community of the coffee business on multiple levels and knew that someday, I would open my own place!
When the opportunity came knocking, my then fiancé (now husband), Paul and I were completely unprepared, but decided to jump in. We had confidence that I could use my years of experience working and managing in the service industry to make this little dream a reality. And that Paul’s skill set and background in customer service, sound, and graphic design would help make it a success.
What makes Crescendo unique? What is uniquely different about Crescendo that sets you apart from your “average” coffee shop?
We love people as much as we love coffee and music! We believe that we are selling an experience and every single detail counts. With that in mind, we are always trying to be better and are INCREDIBLY involved in every decision.
Who is your target customer? What is the demographic of Crescendo?
Anyone who has been into either of our shops knows that it is all over the map, but young professionals is an easy answer.
On Monroe Street we have professors and college students, pastors and home school families, kids and business executives all frequenting the shop. Whereas, at Hilldale we have high schoolers and Instagram influencers, service workers, Doctors and Moms.
We love that you can bring your brand new baby in as a safe first outing as a new mom and be sitting next to a guy who just got back from a work trip where he launched a satellite into outer space. So much of our lives are spent feeling separate from one another. Having a place where lives intersect and everyone becomes an equal feels really human and special.
Tell us the story behind the name…how did you come up with Crescendo? What’s the name stand for or mean to you?
That was all Paul. I can’t take credit for that!
He wanted something that represented a lot of different aspects of what we do, as well as who we are. Our last name is Sirianni, which is Italian. The Italian origin of the word means “to increase”. In music, crescendo is used to indicate a gradual increase in loudness. So, you have the music component represented, but then we also like the idea of how having your morning coffee can gradually increase the energy in your day.
How much did you have to learn about coffee in order to open a shop? How did you go about doing that?
I know a lot about coffee simply because I fell in love with it. It started purely from curiosity. Where does it come from? Who grew it? Who harvested it? And how? What did it take to get it to us? People don’t realize how much life there is attached to the cup sitting in front of you.
I don’t think it’s necessary to do a deep dive into the coffee world in order to open a shop. But to be able to do it with integrity, care, and quality – it’s key.
How I learned about coffee was simply from years of working in the field; being curious; going to origin (where the coffee is grown and harvested); asking a lot of questions; doing a lot of reading; having a lot of conversations with people that are smarter than me about things I don’t necessarily understand; and observing them at work. But, honestly? Mostly CARING.
You are a mother to two young children (under 5 right?)…How do you balance owning two coffee shops with being a full-time mom?
Yes, we have two boys. Casper is 4-years old, and Rudy is just 10 months.
“Balance” is an interesting word when you own your own business because in so many ways your work is not separate for your home life.
To be transparent, I have been trying to figure out how much of that I still believe and how much I believe it out of necessity to survive and just make everything work. I did come to the realization about 5 months ago that while I was doing a lot at home and with the business (Paul worked a full time job outside of Crescendo up until October of 2019), I wasn’t doing any of it particularly well. So, we hired a general manager for the shops at the end of last year (who is also a new mom and a general badass) to help try and reframe what my role is and what it should be at this stage of life and the business.
Because of that decision, I have been way more present as a parent and spent way more time as a more hands-on mom in the last 6 months that I EVER thought I would. And it’s good. Now, twice a week I work on location in the shops – kid free – and the rest of the week I am squeezing work in where I can, but mainly focusing on my kids and my family.
What role does your partner play in this process? Tell us what that working relationship is like…
Working in a business with your spouse is quite the adventure! We have complimenting personalities and he is incredibly patient. He has arguably become more invested in coffee culture than I am. Which is saying a lot considering he didn’t even drink coffee when we met!
We are in a position more often than not where I am “The Boss” when it comes to Crescendo. Which means I have to keep myself in check so that the lines don’t get blurry between work and home. Which is hard. We are absolutely a team though, and not one single part of this business or life would be possible without his incredible support, trust, and talent.
You often have live music at the Monroe Street location. Any upcoming events readers should look forward to?
Yes! We have some great shows coming up this spring!
Lee DeWyze, a past American Idol winner is coming at the end of February, which is going to be great. He has played at Crescendo a few times in the past several years and its always a wonderful evening!
Check out our Facebook page for more info.
And lastly, just for fun, what is YOUR favorite coffee drink?
Double shot 8oz whole milk vanilla latte. So delish.
Thanks to Cait for the interview and for showing us moms how it’s done! I am also an avid coffee lover and highly recommend Crescendo’s Miel. Enjoy!