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The Nicest Place in Wisconsin: The Lingonberry Llama Coffee Shop in Belleville

Originally published in Reader's Digest.

"BREATHING LIFE AND KINDNESS INTO SMALL TOWN AMERICA"
NOMINATED BY SAMANTHA OLSON

Small towns need a place to meet, talk and share. In this tiny town, that need was met in a big way.

The people of Belleville, Wisconsin, a village of 2,400 people outside of bustling Madison, had no place to gather before the Lingonberry Llama café opened in 2018.

“There just weren’t places to meet anyone, unless you went to one of the bars or the bowling alley,” says resident Samantha Olson.

Everything changed when Jon Cleveland, a transplant from England, opened the Llama. Olson said the shop gave her a place to host her new-moms group every Saturday.

“They’ve given us discounts, offered to make special food for the kids, reserved tables for us, and are even building a family room,” she says. “One week they hosted a Mama and Me yoga class just for us.”

It’s not just moms who get the special treatment; it’s everyone in town.

“People would come in all the time and say that Belleville needed a happy place,” says Maria Julian, a former employee. “They made us feel like family.”

It’s been a shot in the arm for the whole town.

“When I would go for walks through downtown, it used to be a ghost town,” says village resident Lindsey Koch. “Not anymore! Kids ride their bikes there for ice cream and breakfast treats, families walk together to grab a sweet treat or lunch, and the inside is just buzzing with warmth and hospitality. The Llama has lit a fire in our town, and I can’t wait to see it continue to attract even more successful businesses.”

Until—and after—that day comes, Cleveland is going to stay involved and keep on building community.

“We support the school here in every way that we can, as well as the local library,” he says. The bakery sponsors school basketball teams and has donated baked goods for library fund-raisers. “When I was younger I had a job in a little town and was given responsibility for the business from the owner. She taught me that you never give up and that you are a part of a community.”

—The Editors

The Nomination

They’ve brought life to our sleepy town. Main Street bustles because of all the activities this shop offers the tiny town of Belleville. They let me host the Belleville New Moms Group there every other Saturday, offer live music, craft nights.

ligonberry llamaCOURTESY LINGONBERRY LLAMAOwner Jonathan Cleveland, General Manager Janice Chavez and Samantha Olson, who nominated the cafe.

Jon Cleveland, the owner/chef/barista, personally makes connections with his guests. The coffee shop feels like family, or going home.

Lingonberry Llama


He has allowed our Belleville New Moms Group to meet there every other Saturday and has personally scheduled fun events there for the kiddos like Easter Bunny photos, making Bouquets for Mother’s Day,  Mama and Me Yoga, etc. It is so much more than a coffee shop. It’s a hub for the entire community. He keeps the shop open during snow days, serves up early morning breakfast for the community garage sale days, knows almost everyone by name, books local musicians and crafters, and tries to keep everything local. He’s brought us all together in the best ways possible.

Lingonberry Llama