The Root Note reopens for business in La Crosse


Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

Henry Anderson, Photo Journalist

“Quid Novi!” was a phrase that rang throughout London’s coffee houses in the late 17th century. Translated into English, the phrase meant, “what news have you?” and it was asked of all of those who entered. Through the saying of this phrase, information was exchanging hands at a fast rate inside these coffeehouses. This exchange of information, debate and discourse led to political changes in England along with a spread of Enlightenment-era ideas.

Along with this, the London coffeehouse was a socially diverse place. While women were not seen in coffeehouses, attributed to the bad attributes that coffee was given, it wasn’t rare to see different classes of society sitting alongside each other. “Pre-eminence of place none here should mind, but take the next seat he can find,” describes the Rules and Orders of the Coffee-House, written in 1674.

While time has passed and the social stigma behind coffee has dissipated, the idea of having everyone, no matter their social status or identity, in a single building sharing both coffee and ideas has not changed. This mission is carried on today in places like the Root Note in downtown La Crosse.

“The Root Note is a place for everyone,” says Bethany Bowman. Bowman has worked at The Root Note since Dec. 2015 and is now the lead administrator for the coffee shop. “It’s important to us that this is an LGBTQ+ and BIPOC friendly space,” says Bowman. Bowman continues by saying, “We want people to feel comfortable and also get curious about what they don’t know yet whether that be in arts, culture, food, drink, or the community at large.”

In order to get people to come out of their comfort zone, The Root Note is a host to all kinds of different food and drinks. “It’s important to us to serve our neighbors thoughtfully sourced food and drink and serve up things that are delicious and unique,” said Bowman. The Root Note has everything from coffee and tea to wine and beer. “Our bar manager is super passionate about having unique offerings for people to get curious about,” says Bowman.

Additionally, The Root Note takes pride in finding options that are both local and sustainably sourced. As Bowman says, “Our coffee is from Wonder State Coffee out of Viroqua and our options usually change out to support guest roasters.” Bowman continues by saying, “our coffee lead is super passionate about reaching out to different people and gathering different products.”

The idea of allowing people to be comfortable in going outside of their comfort zone with locally and sustainably sourced products is something that is very important to The Root Note. Along this line, Bowman says that it is important to The Root Note that its employees are allowed to pursue whatever interests them. However, as Bowman explains, it wasn’t always like this at The Root Note.

“Going into 2020, we (The Root Note) were going to close for the summer, renovate, and reopen,” Bowman explains. Bowman continues by describing how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the reopening of The Root Note and how for a long time it was hard to get any business done between the pandemic and the remodel. After all of that, Bowman said, “Then we just did a whole, giant renovation, and it feels like a totally different space.”According to Bowman, this change in space came a change in philosophy.

“Before the renovation, we would have everyone do everything. We would have people get their bartending license to be bartenders, get people to be front counter cashiers, be dishwashers, baristas, and cooks,” they said. “Now that our separate sections are split up and not condensed into a small area like before, people get to focus more on their craft. We didn’t want people to be sort of good at two things, but really good at one thing.”

This focus on a single skill that an employee at The Root Note is passionate about shines through in the knowledge that employees can call forth. Kareena, a barista who has been working at The Root Note since 2014, is an example of this philosophy. Between making drinks, Kareena doesn’t shy away from interacting with those who have questions about the drinks she is making because of the passion that she has for it.

As for why Kareena likes coffee so much, it can be best shown in how she describes working at The Root Note. “Working here is pleasant. For me, the act of making coffee makes it like an art form. It is relaxing and very beautiful,” says Kareena.

The Root Note is in downtown La Crosse at 115 4th Street South, La Crosse, WI, right across the street from Deaf Ear Records and Leithold Music. It is open at 7:00 a.m. every day, except Monday when they are closed, and closes at 9:00 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Along with hosting unique food and drinks, The Root Note hosts events like trivia nights, open mic nights, and sometimes has musical guests coming through. They also offer free wifi in an effort to encourage those who need to do work or homework to stay and enjoy the ambiance, Bowman said their wifi password is “largebaby.”

For more information check out their website, along with their Facebook page.