Food service returns to the beanery
By Brian L. Gray
The businesses and organizations residing at the former Mandan Beanery are continuing to evolve, and the latest evolution since the beanery returned to life back in 2008 is the start of a new business called Sweet Beginnings Bakery.
The bakery, which is owned and operated by Tami Helmers, opened at the beanery on Oct. 1. It offers freshly baked cupcakes, cookies, muffins, cakes and other baked goods. She also does specialty orders and caters weddings, birthdays and other events.
The bakery occupies 300 square feet that was previously used by Suzie Q’s Craft Emporium, which moved into a larger space on the opposite end of the beanery building.
Sweet Beginnings Bakery has been in operation for eight years now, which in that time was run out of Helmers’ home in Mandan. She says the business has outgrown that location and she needed another place to operate.
Helmers began baking in her spare time while she was in high school, and worked for some time in a bakery in Chicago, where she is originally from. As the years went on she became more passionate about her hobby for baking, and began taking cooking classes to learn more. “I wanted to learn as much as I could, so I bought every book that I could get my hands on,” Helmers says.
When her full-time job was reduced to part-time, Helmers came to the realization that this new change in her life was a chance to take a shot at running her own business. After hearing that there would soon be a vacancy at the beanery from Mandan Progress Organization Executive Director Del Wetsch, the other entity that occupies the beanery, Helmers knew this was her opportunity.
Helmers is no stranger to the beanery, as she worked as the assistant and bookkeeper for the MPO for several years.
Helmers begins her day each morning at 5:30 a.m., in time to have her baked goods put on display by 8 a.m. Each day she cooks something different, and has a theme for each day of the week, such as Cupcake Wednesday or Strudel Thursday. Fridays are always a surprise for customers, because on that day Helmers bakes up whatever she feels like cooking.
Helmers says her passion for baking only continues to grow. She still finds time to get creative in the kitchen, and sometimes after finishing her part-time job returns to the beanery to create new products.
A few of her personal creations have begun to receive a popular following. Helmers put together a cupcake that includes maple and bacon, which many of her customers look forward to. Another one she recently created that received a lot of positive feedback was a Cherry Coke cupcake.
Helmers approaches her baking as though it is a work of art. “Baking is a medium that’s never perfect. No treat is ever the same. So many different things impact how the finished product looks and tastes, from the humidity in the air to the barometric pressure. It really is an art form,” she says.
Helmers has been asked by several customers now why she chose not to take over the former Goerge’s Bakery building on West Main Street, now that she is filling that gap left open when the business closed years ago, but Helmers says she is happy where she’s at. “The space I have now is perfect. I don’t have too much overhead here, and I didn’t have to put myself in too much debt before I got started,” she says. “I’m starting small and seeing where things go. This is a hobby that turned into a nice small business, and so far it’s been really great.”
Helmers says as the business in the new location continues, she would like to begin offering breads and pies in the future. She would also like to one day employ someone to assist her, “but at the time it’s just me,” Helmers says.
When the Mandan Beanery reopened for business in 2008, two other organizations originally inhabited the building along with the Mandan Progress Organization, the Mandan Historical Society and the Mandan Art Association.
The art association, after 52 years of operation, closed its doors for good at the end of September. All future events and exhibitions were cancelled when the association made its announcement back in July.
“MAA would like to thank all of its members and friends for the support they have given the association and gallery. We would also like to thank all of the members who allowed us to share their creations in the gallery displays,” the organization posted on its website this summer.
The Mandan Historical Society, which moved out when Suzie Q’s moved in during August of last year, moved its base of operations to northwest Mandan, at the North Dakota State Railroad Museum.
The railroad museum also has offered the historical society a portion of its property on the southeast corner to construct a building of its own, which is located just east of the museum’s new depot. The building is expected to be about 1,200 square feet, and the society’s board of directors has made plans of establishing an exploratory committee to help raise money for the construction of the building. This topic will be brought up at the society’s meeting this month, which is its annual membership meeting.
The beanery is located at 411 W. Main St., and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.