Anita Waldenberger is a native Austrian, and though she is now living in Princeton, she has recreated a piece of her home with Café Vienna.
The shop at 200 Nassau Street opened in April of 2014 after years of planning. Waldenberger spent an entire year converting her mother’s old recipes for the café, and credits her family and childhood in Austria for her hard-working attitude.
Waldenberger grew up on a farm in Kamering, Austria, where she and her family worked in the fields throughout her childhood.
“That was at times difficult because it’s a harsh environment. My parents made it very good for us, but we weren’t pampered,” she said. “So we’re used to working hard, and that gave me a good basis for starting my own business. My home and my parents were absolutely fabulous and they gave me a good base to be tough.”
Her father, who was a lieutenant in the Austrian army, was a prisoner of war in the United States during the Second World War. When he came back to Austria, though, he told his daughter how wonderful the United States was and how friendly the people were.
“He always talked about it, and I think growing up, I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to visit all the places that my dad was when he was here in the United States,’” she said.
Waldenberger then attended a five-star hotel apprenticeship near her Kamering home before fulfilling her desire to visit the United States with the goal of gaining experience and improving her language skills. She was only 17 years old.
“I needed to better myself. And that’s what I did,” she said. “The first year, I did not plan to stay, but then I started loving it too much.”
After spending 30 years working on Wall Street for the German Commerzbank—where she met her husband in 1986—and later working for a real estate agency, Waldenberger finally decided to open her own business. Her brother mentioned the need for a European-style coffee shop in Princeton where people could relax and socialize, and Waldenberger said she was immediately interested.
“It was an evolving thing over the years. I had to look at many, many things before I decided in what direction I would want to take this,” she said. “I am not just another coffee shop. I am somewhere where people feel warm and welcome.”
Café Vienna is now close to its one-year anniversary, and Waldenberger says the business is well received and beloved within the Princeton community, especially by international community members.
“I wanted a touch of class. We needed something here in Princeton,” she said. “We chose the angle of appealing to the international community and providing them a little bit of home.”
Though she serves homemade Austrian desserts and coffee and in a relaxed European-style coffee house atmosphere, Waldenberger says she belongs in the United States.
“I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to come here,” she said. “Anything is possible, but you have to want it and work hard.”