Episode 99

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Published on:

12th Dec 2023

Bridges 120 with Carrie DiPaola

Hope you're having a great holiday season. Thanks for tuning in to Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. This week, I'm joined by Carrie DiPaola from Bridges 120 in Hartford, Wis. Bridges 120 is a smoothie shop with a mission. Its mission: "to be available to kids, teens & families by being a safe place to gather, offering diverse programs & giving back to the community through their time and resources."

Want to get in touch with Carrie DiPaola? You can here: carrie.dipaola@bridges120.org

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Transcript
Fuzz Martin:

Hello, you lovely people. Thank you for tuning into 15 minutes with fuzz. My name is Fuzz Martin, and this is a show about all the positive things happening in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. This week, we head to Hartford and talk to Carrie DiPaola. Carrie is the president of Bridges 120. Bridges 120 is a nonprofit smoothie shop that serves community organizations and is a. Really cool place to hang out. And with that, here are 15 minutes on bridges 120 with Carrie DiPaola on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.

Fuzz Martin:

Thank you for joining me today. So how would you describe Bridges 120 to people who ask you what it is?

Carrie DiPaola:

I think the best way to describe us is just a gathering place that happens to sell smoothies and simple foods.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay, so it's a gathering place, and I assume is 120 the address?

Carrie DiPaola:

It is.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Fuzz Martin:

And that's in downtown Hartford.

Carrie DiPaola:

Hartford, yeah.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Fuzz Martin:

Very good. So what inspired you to start a nonprofit smoothie shop that really supports the local community? What gave you that idea?

Carrie DiPaola:

So it's a super long story, but I'll try to shorten it up. So I was talking to my younger sister about eight years ago, and we were walking downtown Hartford, and there was this little place, it used to be called the mole hole. Anybody that lives in Hartford knows what the mole hole was. And they had closed down, and the building was available. And Sarah said, you know what Hartford really needs? A bakery. I was like, yeah, that'd be awesome. Through the years, it just kind of developed, and then it became more of an interest and was doing research on how to open a bakery. Went to somebody suggested I go to cranky al's in Wauwatosa and happened to talk to the nephew of the owner there and was telling him what I was thinking about. And he said to me, did you ever think about doing smoothies? I have a friend who has a smoothie shop, and it's really cool. And I was like, no, smoothie is not my thing. Donuts. Donuts are my thing. I'm going to stick with donuts. So jump ahead. Like, I don't know, four more years after that. And I just knew it was the time to move on it. And that was January 1 of 2020. And I told my husband, I was like, this is going to be the year. This is the year that we have to move on it. The very next day, I had binge watched this show called Secret Millionaire, and the guy on there kept on saying, you have to pivot. If you're going to own a business, you have to be able to pivot. And it stuck with me, I don't bake. I don't bake at all. So that was going to make it really difficult. You can find and doing my research on how much it would cost, I was like, oh, my gosh. How am I going to do this? That previous conversation with Tony from Cranky Al's, do you ever think about doing smoothies? And I was like, oh, smoothies. I just need a blender. Like, I could do this. And then it morphed into a smoothie shop. And then from there, it was like my whole purpose, I knew, was to have a gathering place where people could just come and be and it not be expensive, just where people could just hang out. So, yeah, through the years, it just kind of morphed into that.

Fuzz Martin:

Wow.

Carrie DiPaola:

And then a conversation with a friend when I was asking people about business plans. At the very end of the conversation, we were together for 2 hours. We were getting up to leave, and she looked at me and said, Carrie, do you ever think about making this a nonprofit? Everything that you're telling me sounds like it should be a nonprofit. And I was like, no, I don't know how to run a business, let alone a nonprofit. And she used to work for United Way.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

So, again, that just morphed into this.

Fuzz Martin:

Yeah.

Fuzz Martin:

So it got you into that whole social kind of business, that social equity business, and helping that. And I know I participate with a lot of nonprofits. There is a lot. To get a nonprofit started. You've got your articles of incorporation and your board, and you have to convince the government that that's what you're doing. Right?

Carrie DiPaola:

Yeah.

Fuzz Martin:

Now, I've seen a lot on your website. You're trying to be a place, as you said, for the community to go and hang out. But really, you're doing a lot of catering to the younger generation as well. Right. It seems like there's a lot of kids that, at least from the photos and things that I see on social, that are enjoying Bridges 120.

Carrie DiPaola:

It does. I feel like we have a lot of great kids and teens in our community, and sometimes they just make unwise decisions and kind of get a bad rap. And I want to be able to highlight and give back to them and kind of encourage them to make better decisions or make wiser decisions, I guess. We had three teenagers. They're all grown now, and they made bad decisions, but they were great kids. They were great kids, and we just wished that we had a place for them to go when they needed a break from us and we needed a break from them. So, yeah, we definitely try to cater to them.

Fuzz Martin:

My wife is a middle school teacher in Lomira, and she always says to her classes, her 8th grade students, joe says, make good life choices. And actually, to the point where her students, one day she was out and she had a substitute, one of her students made her a poster that said, make good life choices. So now she's got that on a bunch of stickers she hands out to the kids. Similar, very close to home hearing that. So this started in January of 2020 is when this vision started?

Carrie DiPaola:

Yes.

Fuzz Martin:

Obviously, we got into a pandemic, and you were talking about pivoting. How did that go for you during that?

Carrie DiPaola:

A part of me wishes that I could say. It was so hard, and there was all these dramatic things, but there wasn't. It was really made the decision in January to move forward, and it was just moment after moment of things just falling into place where we didn't move into the mole hole. That was the whole plan the whole time.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

And that just didn't happen. But there was another building right next to it, right on the other side of the riverwalk that was available and met with the new owners there. And the space that we're in was actually not even available.

Fuzz Martin:

Oh, wow.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

He showed me, when I went to go tour it, he showed me some offices upstairs, and I was like, well, I guess I could make this work. But literally, the office was about just twice the size of this. I was like, I could cram, like, two people there. And when we were walking down the stairs, he said, let me just show you the photo studio. It's not available, but I'll just show it to you. And I was like, okay. It was exactly what I'm not a very imagining. I'm not able to imagine a lot of things that I don't see directly right in front of me, but I could totally envision what it would look like. I would say. Two days later, he called me and he said, Carrie, that space is actually available. And I said, I'll take it.

Fuzz Martin:

Awesome.

Carrie DiPaola:

Had no idea how I was going to do it, but I was like, I'll take it. And then from there, working with the health department, I've heard horror stories, know opening restaurants and just the health department. Tyler from the health department, who I worked with, was amazing. Answered all of my questions, was super helpful, super friendly, the building inspectors, everything just really working, really. So I'm like, really one of the lucky ones.

Fuzz Martin:

Great. Well, I mean, people like to hear a struggle story, but also that's heartfelt that it feels good to know that you didn't have to go through some of the challenges that others talk about. And we'll knock on wood here. Nothing pops up here but talk a little bit about that space for people to join there. So what kind of needs do you address by. I know we talked about kind of giving the kids another space, but even just in the community itself, with other folks in the community besides the students.

Carrie DiPaola:

I think Hartford does a really good job of having programs for kids, adults, just for the array of people that live in Hartford. And we're just trying to maybe fill the gaps of some of those, like with the kids with school, they have to go to school or are homeschooled. They have homework to do. But maybe they are tired of being at home. They don't want to stay after school for tutoring. So we're just a place where they could come and do that for people to have programs and meet with other people. We've got a great library that does that, but sometimes they want to grab something to eat while they're having the meetings. So we're a place to do that, too. We're just kind of like the gap filler.

Fuzz Martin:

Yeah, that works great. We talked about how you landed on selling smoothies. What are some of your most popular smoothie flavors at Bridges 120?

Carrie DiPaola:

What are people liking these days, hands down? The top two are our berry blast and our over the blue moon. Okay, so over the blue moon is cotton candy flavor and it comes with whipped cream and sprinkles. And you would think that that would just be like a kid thing. There are so many adults that come and get it.

Fuzz Martin:

Is it like modeled after that blue moon ice cream? Okay, so we've always had a debate as to what flavor blue moon is and we always kind of just land on. It's blue, but cotton candy, is that kind of the official, I think you're going to settle debate in our house?

Carrie DiPaola:

I'm going to say yes.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay. All right. Maybe that's on me. Maybe I was just going that may have come up and maybe I didn't listen. I guess as a smoothie shop, every drink is really a specialty drink, right? Or are there some kind of staples other than. Because I assume you have different flavors all the time and you can really get experimental with that.

Fuzz Martin:

Right.

Carrie DiPaola:

So actually ours kind of stay the same, but we offer because ours are purees, fruit purees, so we can mix and match it if people want. But we have a list of regular got you flavors.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay, see, I'm not up to speed on my smoothie stuff, so I need to stop at Bridges 120.

Carrie DiPaola:

Yeah, you do learn a bit more.

Fuzz Martin:

So do you have a personal favorite flavor of your own, then?

Carrie DiPaola:

I love that question. I get that question all the time, and it changes on the monthly. But I would say that my top favorites are not a pumpkin, which is peach, mango and carrot.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

So it's all the orange things, but not pumpkin or anything with lemonade. Like lemonade, strawberry lemonade, peach. And we have a strawberries and cream, which is like a strawberry shake with whipped cream on it. That's really good. Our orange dream, which is like an orange creamsicle. There's just so. Yeah, it depends what I'm feeling like that day.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay. All right. Very good. And do a lot of people get. Smoothies and take them to go, or do they. A lot of them stay. And indoors is kind of mix of.

Carrie DiPaola:

It's really a mix.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

It really is. I'd say probably right down the middle. 50 50.

Fuzz Martin:

Do you guys have any holiday smoothies?

Carrie DiPaola:

Yes. So we actually have holiday smoothies and holiday drinks.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

So we have gingerbread. You can get that as a frappe, a latte or a chai drink. And then we have white chocolate mint and also the frappe, the latte or a chai.

Fuzz Martin:

Wow. Okay. Yeah, sounds great. I assume as a nonprofit, one of the big things, obviously, you have to get funds to operate, so some of that comes through the sales of stuff. But then there's also events and donations and things like that. So do you have any events coming up at Bridges 120 to support and to support the community and also the nonprofit?

Carrie DiPaola:

Yes, actually, every fourth Tuesday of the month, except for November and December. So starting up again in January, we have tacos and trivia.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

And that we bring in tacos. My husband makes tacos. And it's just teams of two to six players. And all the donations from that night go to the winning teams charity of choice.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

So that all goes right back to the community.

Fuzz Martin:

Sure.

Carrie DiPaola:

And then in February, we host a father daughter dinner. So we did it this year, but it was father daughter breakfast, and it was such a huge hit that we decided to make it a dinner, too, for the dads that want to bring their daughters but aren't available during the day.

Fuzz Martin:

Sure.

Carrie DiPaola:

Those are two next big things.

Fuzz Martin:

And will that information about both tacos and trivia and that father daughter dinner, will those be on your website?

Carrie DiPaola:

Yes, on our website and on our Facebook and Instagram.

Fuzz Martin:

How has the response been to Bridges 120? How's the community receiving it, it's really.

Carrie DiPaola:

Well. Really well. It was very slow going in the beginning because we don't do advertising or anything, so it's really been by word of mouth and some social media. I'm not a social media person. I am like the worst, but really word of mouth, and it's just amazing people coming in and, oh, Hartford really needs this. I'm glad you're doing this. So the community has really been behind us.

Fuzz Martin:

Excellent. Glad to hear that. Aside from getting open during the pandemic and things, have you encountered any. I mean, we talked about you didn't have any issues with the health department getting started or getting your permits and those kind of things. Have you run into any major challenges at all during this? Has this been really big challenges?

Carrie DiPaola:

I'm not a business person. I have no business background.

Fuzz Martin:

But you ran a business before this, right? You had a cleaning service?

Carrie DiPaola:

I had a cleaning business, but that was me just going into people's houses and cleaning. It was really just me.

Fuzz Martin:

Sure.

Carrie DiPaola:

So this is really different. I didn't have vendors. I didn't need social media. It was just really the people that I was cleaning for. And just having a couple was fine with me.

Fuzz Martin:

Sure.

Carrie DiPaola:

So this is a whole other. I didn't need an accountant. And that was the other thing, getting started. We don't have lawyers. We don't have accountants. This last year, luckily, there's a gentleman CPA that he did our taxes for us because I had no clue.

Fuzz Martin:

Sure.

Carrie DiPaola:

We didn't start out as a nonprofit.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

We started out as just a regular. Yes. But we decided right from the beginning whether we got that approval to be a nonprofit or not. We were going to do. The business plan was going to be the same. So the first year, did our taxes ourselves. That was fine. Being a nonprofit, totally different, brings a.

Fuzz Martin:

Whole bunch of different things. 990s and all that kind of stuff. It's a lot of work not making money.

Carrie DiPaola:

That's a really good way to put it.

Fuzz Martin:

But you know what? It pays off in being able to sleep at night and knowing that you're helping the community and those things. Right?

Carrie DiPaola:

Yes. I think when people ask us how business is going, it's really hard sometimes to answer because business can be super slow. But our mission is going forward, is moving forward. So to us, that is the biggest thing. As long as our mission is moving forward.

Fuzz Martin:

Where would you like to see Bridges 120 grow here over the next few years, both in terms of the smoothie shop itself and how the business portion of it operates and also how you serve the community.

Carrie DiPaola:

So that's really hard for me to answer, only because I've never been that person to like five years from now, this is what I see. But I would really love to see working with my husband. My husband has a vision to open his own place. He also has a passion for helping people, for feeding people. So I would really love bridges to partner with him. That just touches my heart. That just really touches my heart. But another thing that I was actually just kind of envisioning this last, I'm going to say year or so, and it's really scary to say this out loud because I don't know exactly what this looks like, but I would really love to have a roller skating rink arcade, just like straight up cool hangout just for kids and teens. I mean, I guess there's adults that would go too. But really, I would love to bring that to Hartford. And I'm not sure if that's going to be in conjunction with bridges or just another love. I know West Bend used to have the roller skating rink. My girls used to go there, but that closed down. So I would love to bring that to Hartford.

Fuzz Martin:

Yeah. There's not a lot of roller skating opportunities in the area for sure.

Carrie DiPaola:

No.

Fuzz Martin:

Well, that's great. So for those wanting to get involved or to support the bridges 120 mission, what are some ways that they can.

Carrie DiPaola:

Pitch in financially, for sure, we have a donation page on our website@www.bridges.org. Bridges 120.

Fuzz Martin:

Org.

Carrie DiPaola:

Bridges 120. Org. Thank you very much for that.

Fuzz Martin:

You're welcome.

Carrie DiPaola:

But if they go to Bridges 120. Com too, it'll pop them over to. Sure. My husband's the techie guy. He figured all that stuff out. And if anybody has any ideas for any programs or events at bridges, they can email me at Carrie DiPaola at Bridges 120. Org or Facebook or Instagram.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay.

Carrie DiPaola:

We love when the community gets involved with wanting to do events or programs, and we encourage them to run them and take hold of them. Especially teens. Especially teens. If there's something that they want to do there. We are considering doing a club night. So for all those people my age, the Beverly Hills 920, they had the peach pit. And then like season three, maybe they had the peach pit after dark. Okay, so that's totally like somebody brought that up and I was like, yes, let's do that. So people like to just want to get involved and have ideas like that. We really encourage that and we want them to get involved. So I think those are two of the biggest ways all right.

Fuzz Martin:

Great. And I'll put your email address in the show notes for this show, but you also have it on your website. That's how we got in touch. I went and did some digging and it was right there. Very easy to get a hold of. So how can people learn more about Bridges 120 and where can they follow you on social media?

Carrie DiPaola:

Definitely at our website and then social media, we have Instagram and Facebook. And that's Bridges 120 for both of those.

Fuzz Martin:

For both of them. Okay. Very good. Well, Carrie, super awesome business model that you have going on here. It's really cool. And also awesome that you're serving the community with that. Thank you for coming on the show and we wish you the best of luck.

Carrie DiPaola:

Thanks for having me. This is a lot of fun.

Fuzz Martin:

Thanks again to Carrie DiPaola of Bridges 120 for joining me this week. And thank you for listening. This was my 99th episode. Can you believe that? Crazy. I'd really like to try to do something special for my 100th. That said, we're smack dab in the holiday season. My focus is a bit down. Listenership, while still very good, is running lighter than normal. And I chalk that up to people being busy with their lives and holiday stuff. They're off their routine, and that's totally cool. Plus, it's been tough coordinating interviews and.

Fuzz Martin:

I'm like, why fight the fight, right? So after today's episode, I'm going to take a little break until the new year and then come back with renewed energy. Cool. We'll meet in the same spot right here on January 9. Okay, awesome. In the meantime, you can catch up on episodes on your favorite podcast player on fifteenwithfuzz.com or go to YouTube. If you go to YouTube.com and then the at symbol and type in 15 with fuzz, that'll get you to my channel. Or YouTube is owned by Google. Use the search bar.

Fuzz Martin:

Have a Merry Christmas. We will see you next year right here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.

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About the Podcast

Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz
Showcasing the positive things happening in Washington County, Wisconsin.
Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz is sheds light on all the great things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. The host, Fuzz Martin, is a local business owner (EPIC Creative) and a former radio personality (92.5 WBWI - now Buzz Country). New episodes launch on Tuesday mornings. https://fifteenwithfuzz.com

Whether you're in West Bend, Kewaskum, Slinger, Hartford, Germantown, Richfield, Jackson, or anywhere else in the area, 15 Minutes with Fuzz serves the community with fun and positive people, places, events, and attractions.

About your host

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Fuzz Martin

Fuzz Martin is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at EPIC Creative in West Bend, Wis.