The Local Oven, more than just a bakery
Offering oven fresh baked goods, ice cream and their claim to fame, the Maple Bacon donut, the Local Oven in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, offers more than its name.
Originally an opportunity center employing the developmentally disabled, a few blocks from the bakery’s current location, Joe and his parents bought the business after it unfortunately closed.
Realizing it was a good business that could thrive with the proper management, the Cervens jumped on the opportunity. “We bought it, and made it a bakery and local foods place only four blocks from where we are now,” Joe said.
“It was only a 1,000 square foot place. We had tables, chairs, the bakery, and some local food stuff. We had ice cream, coffee, jellies, breads. It was 2013 when we bought it and ran it down there about three years.”
Joe said that they were out growing the space with all the local products they were starting to carry, and they needed to find a larger store to expand into. “We saw the place we are in now was for sale and we were renting, so we moved to a place we would own, it’d save us money. We were going from 1,000 square foot to 3,600 square foot, so we could fill it up with more things,” he said with a chuckle.
He acknowledged that in recent years, the city of Prairie du Chien had lost several businesses like a Hallmark store, Christian-Religious store, and a small gift shop that was located next to the bakery’s old location.
With the move to their present and larger location, the Cervens expanded their products to include many cards, religious items, kitchen gadgets, and souvenirs.
Joe stressed that it was important for them to carry religious items, noting the two Catholic churches and other denominational churches in the city’s area. He is pleased that section of the store continues to grow.
With the bakery being a large draw, Joe shared that area of the business continues to grow. One of the bakery’s latest additions, is an almond cone cheesecake made up of brown sugar cone with sliced almonds in it with a cheesecake filling. “It looks similar to a cannoli, but is all cheesecake instead.”
Joe pointed out another favorite of their customers, a shell type Italian flaky pastry filled with dark chocolate. “It looks like a chocolate seashell because it is fanned out like that.”
I would be remiss though not to share the bakery’s number one seller only available on Saturdays, the Maple Bacon donut. “When we bought the place, that was one of the things they did. We don’t know why they did it, but we kept doing it and we’ve made sure use a good bacon with the right flavor.”
Joe said that some bacons have a smoky flavor, and noted that flavor doesn’t work with a donut. “We cook the bacon and then take a scissors and cut it up to put on the donut, so there are actual chunks of bacon on the donut.”
The taste and flavor Joe said, is similar to eating your pancakes and bacon together, with maple syrup.
In addition to meats from their family farm, a large selection of organic spices, jams, and other food products, they carry Spring Grove Pop from Minnesota, and hand dipped ice cream from the W.W. Homestead Dairy in Waukon, Iowa.
With the business a true family affair, Joe’s mother takes care of the book keeping, his father does the handy work and fills in wherever needed, while Joe pretty much runs the store.
“We employ zero people. It’s just us. We are still paying the mortgage for the building. It is under our other business name Phil 2:13, since our address is 213 East Blackhawk. We went through the bible and looked at all of 2:13’s that would fit. We had to make it short, Phil, because Philippians 2:13 was already taken. It was the verse we liked for this kind of building,” Joe said.
With the local Oven’s slow season coming up, he stressed that Prairie du Chien is a tourist town, and a majority of their business comes from the summer months. “The population triples in the summer, which automatically makes us busier. A lot of people camp on the river. The summer tourist season is busy. The fall is pretty good when people come and see the leaves and get apples,” Joe said.
He continued, “A lot of people are coming from Iowa because Prairie du Chien is one of the closest bridges to cross to go to the orchards. Christmas is busy because of the gift-ware. We have a year-round Christmas room.”
The Christmas room evolved amazingly enough from tourists on boat tours that were looking for Christmas ornaments as souvenirs, and Joe and his parents responded to that. Joe said the Christmas room is constantly growing.
At the end of our visit with Joe at the Local Oven, Joe surprised me and my son Brayden (who I brought along for the interview), with a Maple Bacon donut. The verdict, well, WOW! Crazy good. The store itself deserves the same exclamation.