For a lot of people, a coffee break isn’t complete without something sweet to dunk in the hot beverage.
Customers at Portage’s Two Rivers Coffee Company, 224 W. Wisconsin St., can now get a baked treat along with their coffee, tea or other beverage, thanks to a partnership between Two Rivers and the Baraboo-based Neat-O’s Bake Shoppe, 420 Oak St.
Nate Smith, who owns Two Rivers with his wife, Jerusha, said the partnership will be celebrated starting at 9 a.m. Saturday with a grand opening at the coffee shop.
But the joint venture’s roots go back to Christmas Eve.
According to Nate, he and Jerusha had long been keeping their eyes out for locally baked goods that could be sold at Two Rivers, when they came across the offerings at Neat-O’s.
However, the Smiths and Tony and Amanda Nieto, owners of the bakery, had a problem common to small businesses — finding time to get away from the store.
So they arranged to get together on Christmas Eve at the bakery.
The Smiths liked what they saw, and what they tasted.
In a conversation over coffee Tuesday morning, Nate Smith and Tony Nieto exhibited a marked tendency to finish each other’s sentences.
Nate: “We started reaching out to a lot of bakeries to approach …”
Tony: “… for their selection, and who care about what they’re doing.”
One of the first things Nate Smith sampled was a pastry featuring Bavarian cream — which is made from scratch in the bakery, as are all the baked goods and many of their components, including custards and fruit jams.
Tony Nieto said the products will continue to be baked in the Baraboo bakery, which he and Amanda have owned for six years. But they’re brought fresh, daily, to Two Rivers, where they’re displayed behind the counter.
Popular choices include scones, cupcakes, frosted sugar cookies, apple fritters, cinnamon rolls and pecan buns.
About three years ago, when construction was about to start on Columbia County’s new Administration and Health and Human Services buildings alongside the Portage Canal, Bill Tierney, who was then mayor of Portage, predicted the increased downtown traffic resulting from the new buildings would create a demand for certain types of downtown businesses — including a bakery.
The Administration Building, 112 E. Edgewater St., opened 11 months ago, and the Health and Human Services Building is being used as a temporary courthouse while the courthouse at 400 DeWitt St. undergoes renovation.
With the Health and Human Services offices scheduled to move to the new building at 111 E. Mullett St. this summer, and court-related offices moving back to the courthouse, Nate Smith said he predicts a boost in foot traffic, from county employees and members of the public who use the services provided in the buildings.
Although the kitchen and ovens for Neat-O’s will remain in Baraboo, the partnership with Two Rivers allows Portage customers to place special orders for baked goods that they can pick up, fresh, at Two Rivers.
Amanda Nieto, an award-winning cake decorator, said customers should allow about three days for a cake order. For most other products, orders can be filled in 24 hours, she said.
Order forms are available on the counter at Two Rivers.
One advantage of running a local bakery, Tony Nieto said, is that he and Amanda can experiment with new products any time they want. If they see an interesting product on TV or social media, he said, they’re free to create their own recipe, and sell it if they think it’s successful.
Amanda Nieto noted how, after all their years of bakery experience — 20 for him, 15 for her — the sweet aromas of a bakery are no longer as noticeable as they once were.
“You kind of get used to the smell,” she said.
Added Tony Nieto, “I don’t think we’ve become too immune from the bakery smell.”