National Pi Day, celebrated March 14, will be extra sweet for Decorah restaurateur Liz Lesser.
Lesser took her years of restaurant experience and business expertise and recently opened Kozi Pie Shoppe, located at 213 West Water Street in downtown Decorah.
While noted for her specialty pies, Lesser also makes from-scratch cheesecakes, and offers a breakfast and lunch menu.
Making her dream happen
Lesser grew up being the “pie person” in her family, often being asked to bring baked goods to family events. For years she’s been a staple at farmers markets, selling her baked goods. While raising four children, she also worked as a chef at various locations.
A native of Minnesota, she settled in Decorah in 2018. She spent time as a chef and assisted the Oneota Co-op Kitchen with their expansion. She left her position at the co-op the week before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It was probably a really good thing for me to hit pause on what I was doing,” she said. “During the pandemic
I was thinking about leaving the industry but then once I was home that long, I was taking online classes, learning programming, I built my website. It wasn’t long before I was in the kitchen all the time at home. I was back to feeling that again.”
Lesser took a position with the Spectrum Network, helping run their kitchen through the summer of 2021.
Overwhelming in a good way
While working at T-Bock’s last fall, Lesser re-assessed her situation again. That was when Mike Bockman suggested Lesser purchase the former Ede’s and the Angry Pickle building.
Lesser mulled the idea over and eventually purchased the property. She took possession in early November and began remodeling the space. She grew up in a construction family so Lesser said that helped with the remodel project.
She held a soft opening on Jan. 11. “We were slammed right away just from word of mouth,” she said, and noted on her first day she had a line to the door. “I didn’t think I’d get my first customer for days, but it was so busy that first day.
“The community has just been awesome. It’s almost been overwhelmingly awesome for me. I tear up, but not in a bad way.” With the slogan “good things come naturally,” the cafe serves breakfast from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to daily pies, she also has a daily quiche, soup and lunch special. She plans to change her menu seasonally.
Customers can order pie or cheesecake by the slice or can order a whole baked good ahead of time at kozipieshoppe.com or by calling 563- 277-1479. In addition, all pies can be made gluten-free or vegan.
Lesser noted the shoppe wouldn’t be possible without all the support she’s received from family, friends, coworkers and the community. She said she’s assisted greatly by sons Stace, 17, and D’Mitry, 15, as well as twin daughters Clementine and D’avianna, 12, in addition to her regular employees.
“This has been so awesome remodeling as a family and opening the restaurant. I don’t know that we’ve ever been this close. It’s really cool, almost too good to be true in a way.”
She still has dreams for improvement. Lesser said she hopes to add a coffee bar to the space, as well as have display cases with baked goods and local hand-made items.
To see the daily specials, check out Kozi Pie Shoppe on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/chefkozi.
Pi Day specials
Lesser will be celebrating the official grand opening on Monday, March 14, Pi Day, with a ribbon cutting. However, she will be doing specials, daily drawings and live music starting on Friday, March 11.
Specials for the long weekend include complimentary coffee with the purchase of a slice of pie, complimentary pie slice with the purchase of a meal, buy two pie slices and get one free, and $11 off a whole pie for orders placed during the grand opening.
She’ll also be doing daily drawings and a grand prize, with winnings including a goodie basket, gift certificates, a year membership to the pie of the month club and two tickets to the summer chef dinner series.