NORTH FREEDOM – Customers know there’s something new at North Freedom Market the instant they walk in the door.
The store’s new bakery section sits near the entrance, entrancing customers immediately with the smells of fresh-baked bread, rolls and cookies.
“Everybody’s going to be 10 pounds heavier and happier,” said co-owner Marsha Salecker.
She and husband Kay Salecker opened their grocery store in July, bringing daily essentials previously unavailable in this village of 700. More recently, Kay Salecker added baked goods to the mix. He previously ran a bakery in downtown Baraboo, and was eager to ply his trade in the kitchen in back of the family store.
“I’ve opened my old recipe book again,” he said.
He begins baking each morning at 3:30, creating pastries, loaves of bread and specialty desserts for sale at the store.
“Everybody’s liking them,” Marsha Salecker said, noting the store records more than 100 sales a day.
“We are surprised how busy we are,” her husband said.
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But some out-of-the-loop locals are surprised when they walk into the long-dormant storefront and find a bustling grocery. “We still get people coming in saying, ‘I didn’t know you were open,’” Marsha Salecker said.
Adding fresh baked goods last fall was a big step forward for the store, and another is coming. Kay Salecker hopes to sell sandwiches and bakery fare from a food truck this summer at parades and festivals. Meanwhile, he’ll continue to serve brick oven-style pizza at the store on Saturday nights and during special events.
“We’ll see how that goes,” he said. “That will be definitely new ground for us.”
For now, he’s busy baking turnovers, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, croissants, rum balls and Florentine bars. Bakery business was slow in October, but picked up by Christmas as word got around.
In a small store, the baker’s challenge is figuring out how many of each item to make each day. He doesn’t want to run out of anything by coffee hour, but he doesn’t want to throw out excess inventory, either. “It’s a lot of experimenting right now,” he said.
The Saleckers hope customers drawn by the bakery will discover the rest of the store, and that people coming in for a quart of milk might also pick up a bag of buns.
Although the store only has been open half a year, it has found its place in the community. “It seems like years,” Kay Salecker said. “People seem to be happy we are here.”