WATCH NOW: Sparta cafe tries essay contest as alternative to conventional business sale – La Crosse Tribune

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Tammy Haldeman outside of her business, Meraki Café and Curio Shoppe.
The interior of Meraki Café and Curio Shoppe in Sparta.
Tammy Haldeman’s restaurant/coffee shop is named Meraki, which means “the soul, creativity or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work.”
Haldeman is looking to exit the restaurant business but hopes an essay contest will leave Meraki Cafe and Curio Shoppe to someone who carries on the Meraki message.
Anyone willing to put down $200 and write a 500-word essay has a chance to own both the business and building at 119 N. Water St. in downtown Sparta. Haldeman purchased the former Steph’s Cake & Bakes in November 2020 but decided to part with the business after her son and daughter pursued other careers.
Haldeman has experience with such contests. In 2015, she wrote an essay and paid $150 for a chance to own a restaurant in Maine. She said the essay contest is an appealing alternative to a conventional sale.
“It’s write an essay, win a cafe,” she said. “We didn’t want to sell it to just anybody. We wanted it to be somebody who actually wanted to run a business similar to this in Sparta.”
Haldeman said she’s not in charge of gathering the entries.
“I don’t collect the entries at all,” she said. “I have someone else, another business owner here in Sparta, who is collecting the entries, and that person will keep the check and entry form together.”
Haldeman said that she and the other judges, including Meraki customers and two retired teachers, will read the essays without knowing the identity of the authors until the winner is picked.
The entry deadline is Nov. 30, but that could be waived if the contest is short of the 2,500 entries Haldeman is seeking. She said if there aren’t enough entries, essay writers will have their $200 returned.
Haldeman, who has lived in the Sparta area all her life, said she wants to devote more time to traveling and her podcast Tammy for Change. If the contest doesn’t attract enough essays, she’ll continue to operate the restaurant, which offers breakfast and lunch items as well as baked goods, specialty coffee and homemade ice cream.
Essay entries can be sent to Write an Essay, Win a Cafe contest, P.O. Box 8, Sparta, WI 54656. Haldeman said $200 isn’t much for a chance to own a business.
“You could spend $200 at the bar, you could spend $200 at the mall or you could spend $200 on Amazon at the blink of an eye,” she said. “Whoever gets it would get it free and clear.”
Three Holmen best friends show of their masks.
My granddaughter Johana and I – Getting through COVID-19 pandemic – “We can do it!”
This is my 3 year old son Julian. I like to get my kids their favorite color and/or character to make it a little more fun to wear.
“My band had some masks printed to add to our merchandise line-up! Zammek – La Crosse Punk”
A retired state social worker and her daughter who is a public school teacher say, “wearing masks when out and about is a simple and loving thing to do for your community.” 
Fancy that – a mask with bling!
Having dinner guests together at home. Left to right, Don Smith, Mary Rohrer, and Nancy Korn Smith. We asked our readers to show off their masks for all to see. Use a form at and send photos our way. We’ll put them in galleries that we will share on social media, and we’ll publish some of them in our papers.
“I intended this to my likeness and a friendly everyday mask. I was disappointed when i received it. Frankly, it’s ridiculous…so I’ll give readers a good laugh.”
Aquinas’ Alexis Smith hits an approach shot at the WIAA Division 2 girls golf sectional at Drugan’s Castle Mound in Holmen.
The Onalaska dance team performs at halftime.
Masked spectators watch the game.
JB Weiser makes a save for Aquinas.
Aquinas’ Lauren Kelsey, left, and Victoria Nolte attempt a block on Westby’s Macy Stellner.
Aquinas’ Victoria Nolte serves.
The Westby tem celebrates a point won.
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Menche Evans cooks in the kitchen at the new Noodles & Company in Onalaska.
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Onalaska head coach Tom Yashinsky runs football practice.
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Face mask wearing students walk to and from classes on the first day of the fall semester on the UW-La Crosse campus.
Attendees give applause during the “A Stronger America Workforce” event at Dairyland Power Cooperative.
A woman in attendance for the “A Stronger America Workforce” event at Dairyland Power Cooperative with Vice President Mike Pence wears a patriotic facemask.
Marty Diersen with the Sweet Shop hands a cone to Joy Benson, a member of Logan High School’s class of 1969, dressed as the children’s book character Raggedy Ann.

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Tammy Haldeman outside of her business, Meraki Café and Curio Shoppe.
The interior of Meraki Café and Curio Shoppe in Sparta.
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