VIROQUA, Wis. — Operating their family-owned bakery means long hours, and getting up early.
But Dan and Sue Thom are still glad they opened The Cakery & Bake Shop in March 2004 at 807 S. Main St., along Hwy. 14/61 at the south edge of Viroqua.
Their customers also are glad.
“The whole family is a blessing to the community because they boost your spirit and sweeten your day with their goodies,” customer Maurine Fritz of Viroqua said after being waited on at the bakery. “And they’re a hard-working family who support one another. They’re always so pleasant.”
The Thoms and their daughter, Jessica Garrity, work full time at the bakery. And Jessica’s children, Verralynn and Hayden, also help out part time.
Dan and Sue are natives of Janesville and moved to the Viroqua area in 1982. Dan, who has more than 37 years of commercial baking experience, ran the Skogen’s IGA central bakery in Onalaska for three years in the late 1980s.
Sue has worked at bakeries since 1982, including a stint from 2001 to 2003 at the Quillin’s central bakery in La Crosse. When the Quillin’s bakery closed in 2003, she decided to open her own cake shop in Viroqua. Dan planned to help her run it, and the couple started collecting bakery equipment. They ended up with enough to open a full-service bakery.
Dan had been a machinist at S&S Cycle Inc. in Viola for eight years when The Cakery & Bake Shop started and planned to work at both places. But that proved to be too much, so he left S&S Cycle two months later.
The Thoms opened the bakery in a building whose previous occupants included an implement dealership, an antique store and a cheese store.
“I enjoy being self-employed,” Dan said. “You work a lot and have a lot of responsibility, but you still have a certain freedom. And I like being a commercial baker.”
“I like the people (who buy the bakery’s products) and I really like cake decorating,” Sue said.
“I like making things,” Jessica said, as well as coming up with new products and taking care of the bakery’s Facebook page.
Jessica and her parents have seen cookies and cupcakes become a bigger part of their business in the past few years.
“It just keeps growing,” Dan said of the bakery’s cookie sales.
The bakery makes three sizes of cupcakes — mini, medium and large — and they’ve gained in popularity at weddings, graduation parties and other events. “They’re easier to serve (than cake) and you get more variety that people can choose from,” Jessica said.
High school graduation season is the busiest time of year at the bakery, with a spurt in orders then for cupcakes, cakes, dessert bars and sandwich buns.
But the Viroqua bakery also is known for its doughnuts. “People come here knowing that the doughnuts are fresh and were made the same day,” Sue said.
Dan’s sourdough breads and the cakes and cupcakes that Sue and Jessica decorate also are popular year-round.
The bakery sells a large variety of breads, buns, doughnuts and pastries such as apple fritters, Danish rolls, eclairs and peanut rolls. And Sue makes cheesecakes, which can be ordered year-round.
Dan makes outstanding fruitcakes that are sold during the holiday season, Sue said.
“It’s an old-time fruitcake, made with butter, Korbel brandy and whole fruit,” Dan said. The bakery sells some of them by mail order during the Christmas season.
“We ship many things like fruitcake, cookies and bread,” Sue said, mostly to people who used to live in the Viroqua area, or to people receiving them as gifts from relatives in the Viroqua area.
Sue recalled a Viroqua woman buying garlic toast and date-filled cookies at the bakery and shipping them to her daughter, who was in the military and stationed in Afghanistan.
The Cakery & Bake Shop wholesales some of its buns and dinner rolls to several area restaurants. And several area school districts often order such things as doughnuts and cookies for in-service training events or to treat students.