Unique cocktail lounge is a little bit of everything

In addition to a place to go for high-end drinks, Art of Joy in Cedarburg is a shop, event space, bookstore and, as its name suggest, whatever else brings happiness to its owners

ART OF JOY IN Cedarburg combines many of the things that owners Mary Creten (left) and Stephanie Hayes enjoy, including high-end cocktails, delicious food, books and art-inspired wares. It’s a family friendly establishment on Washington Avenue with a children’s lounge (below) that shares the second floor with an adult space. Photos by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

  Art of Joy is the embodiment of the things that bring owners Stephanie Hayes and Mary Creten delight.

The establishment on downtown Cedarburg’s Washington Avenue is a great place to go for unique, high-end cocktails and some appetizers.

But it’s less a bar than a lounge, a gathering space with live music every night it’s open.

It’s a family friendly establishment with a kids’ lounge and activities, as well as special events catering to youngsters.

It’s a special event space that most recently held a Galentine’s celebration that sold out in a day and a children’s Valentine event.

It’s a shop featuring locally made artisan products.

It’s a bookstore, featuring volumes about how to find purpose in life and nurture joy in the process.

And it’s an art-filled building with paintings on many of its walls and bathrooms that are themselves art installations — one features a moss ceiling and another is a tribute to the disco era, complete with multiple disco balls.

“This is the inside of our brains,” Creten said, laughing. “It’s fun to dance to the beat of your own drummer.”

The establishment got its start during the pandemic, when people, including Creten and Hayes, were left feeling isolated.

The women, who have been fast friends since meeting in 2018 — their husbands have been friends for decades and brought them together — talked about the need for connection and a place to nurture it .

At the time, Creten was trying to decide what to do with the building at W63 N664 Washington Ave., the former home of Marline’s Garden, that she purchased in 2021.

She wanted to rent it to a business that would be fun and had brought about 20 people through the building, but none of their ideas hit home.

The women had a similar vision, creating a place that was family friendly, invited connections and was fun, but it wasn’t until Hayes’ mother called them together that they realized this was their opportunity to build a business.

“She said, ‘You two want the same thing,’” Creten said. “In 20 minutes, we had a deal.”

The road to the Art of Joy wasn’t always joyous. The 150-year-old building needed a significant amount of work, a process that took longer than the women expected.

They planned to open last summer, but renovations and state approvals took longer than expected so they brought in a trailer, gutted and renovated it, and placed it behind the building as their mobile bar.

They opened on June 16, serving drinks outside.

After a successful summer season, they closed from October until opening the inside on Nov. 16. In two weeks, they plan to open a heated pavilion behind the building that will ultimately used for special events.

The business takes advantage of the women’s strengths, with Creten noting that Hayes had always wanted to open a bar.

“In a past life I was a performer,” Hayes said. She was a singer and dancer who worked for establishments throughout the country, including Planet Hollywood, and had helped open numerous other businesses. She also served as executive director of the Cedarburg Cultural Center for eight years.

“I loved my job,” she said. “It’s a unicorn job.”

Creten is an entrepreneur who has a consulting practice and a software product, as well as certification as an actuary.

While it’s said that the quickest way to lose a friendship is to go into business together, these women said they’ve gotten closer. Every decision that’s been made is a joint one, they said, and their hands can be found in virtually every aspect of the business, from the design to the menu.

The cocktails and food are created by Hayes, who drew on her years in the hospitality industry to create a unique lineup of tasty drinks and bites.

“It’s my hobby,” she said.

The drinks range from a dirty blonde martini to lavender haze gimlet, and include a harvest apple mule, mon ami espresso martini and cranberry tart.

There’s a “grown-up kiddie cocktail,” Yum Yum Tree, that includes vodka-soaked gummi bears and gin and is topped with a poof of spun cotton candy and gold leaf. It’s an interactive drink, with drinkers pouring a split of prosecco over the cotton candy, melting it into the cocktail.

Each cocktail has gone through as many as 30 iterations before making it onto the menu, the women said.

Every cocktail has a non-alcoholic version.

“They’re not made by taking out the alcohol and adding Sprite,” Creten said, noting they are made with zero-proof alcohol.

“This was a huge passion,” she added. “You don’t have to drink to have fun.”

“There are so many reasons people don’t drink alcohol,” Hayes added. “Maybe you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re taking a break from alcohol. Maybe you’re the designated driver.”

A variety of wines, beers, coffee, tea and herbal drinks — there’s an herbalist on staff — is also on the menu, along with bites such as whipped feta, maple bourbon bacon deviled eggs and more.

The menu will change seasonally, the women noted.

There’s a no-tipping policy at Art of Joy, the women noted, adding they pay their employees a living wage, something that’s helped them attract workers.

“For me, it just didn’t feel right to not do that,” Creten said. Hayes added, “We have attracted and retained an incredible staff. ”

And in a nod to the fact that the women are parents of five children in total, the establishment is a family friendly place.

There’s a children’s lounge upstairs, separated from the adult lounge by a stairway. Movies frequently play on a screen there, and youngsters wear wireless headphones to hear.

A kiddie menu includes hot chocolate, soda and several “drinks,” including Shark Bite Lemonade, which includes lemonade, butterfly pea flower matcha and gummies.

It’s one of their most popular drinks, the women said, noting an adult version includes a shot of vodka.

The Art of Joy attracts people of all ages and a mix of men and women, the owners said.

“We get a lot of families,” Hayes said. “I see a lot of men come in reluctantly but after a few minutes they’re all in and having fun.”

There’s live music every day, performed on the building’s second floor in the lounge, and in keeping with its family friendly reputation, Art of Joy closes by 9:30 p.m. to avoid having people over imbibe.

“We want to create a place that fosters connections, beauty and joy,” Creten said. “It’s more than fun. It’s the art of living joyfully, and that’s hard work.”

For Hayes and Creten, Art of Joy is fulfilling its purpose.

“To us, it’s a movement,” Creten said. “This is the beginning. We have joyous things for adults and comfortable things for children. We’ve created a place to foster connections and be intentional and authentic.”



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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