Courier Staff Writer
One day it’s strawberry banana cupcakes, coffee cake and cinnamon rolls. The next day it’s chocolate chip buttercream cookie sandwiches, raspberry croissants and lemon meringue cupcakes.
Every day brings new surprises and yummy treats to The Little Bake Shop.
Open for just three weeks at 201 E. Second St., Ottumwa’s newest bakery is taking the town by storm. What started with special-order cakes and six flavors of cupcakes has already grown into coffee, cake balls, cookie art, cinnamon rolls, cake pops and breads.
“I expected things to grow slowly, but we came out fast and furious,” owner Melissa Little said.
Keeping the case stocked has been a challenge from day one, Little says. Her goal is to sell out each day so all of the items are fresh every morning. On their first Friday, they sold out by 11:30 a.m. Last week was much better, she said, as they’re learning how much of each item to bake each day.
“This week, people have been calling in for a variety box. ‘I want two of whatever flavors you have.’ So we have them all boxed up and ready when they come in,” Little said.
This type of customer service has been a hit with everyone. When the bakery opened, it soon had 75 likes on Facebook. By Sunday night, it was up to ---.
Part of the draw that Facebook fans have found is the way new menu items are released. The night before, Little will post what can be expected in the shop the next day.
“I post every night,” she explained. “I didn’t one time, and got all sorts of calls.”
On Wednesday, Little takes cupcake flavor requests for Friday. Recent flavors straight from local residents include Snickers, peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin and even french toast maple bacon. That devoted cupcake lover even sent Little a recipe.
“When someone makes a request, they’re so excited to see it in the case,” Little said.
While she doesn’t have a baking background (although her great-grandmother was a baker), Little does have a business background. After spending the wee small hours of the morning baking, she’s an instructor at Indian Hills’ career academy in Fairfield.
Little recently met with Chef Gordon Rader, culinary arts program department head at Indian Hills, and he invited her to talk with some of his students. One thing led to another, and she now has three interns who’ll be spending time in the bakery.
“We have one this week, and she helps with cake balls, learning techniques and decorating,” Little said. “But they’ll come and learn the business side as well. To run any successful business, there are certain things have to know. They’ll have to have a business background in some form.”
The daily changes and exciting things that are happening in The Little Bake Shop are all the encouragement Little needs to start each new work day.
“I’m so excited to come in and see what we can come up with today,” she said. “I don’t want customers to just come in and have a cupcake. I want to create an experience that they’ll remember.”
The Little Bake Shop
201 E. Second St.