Tag: Webster City

Webster City Part III: Four Women Who Inspire Me With Their Small Businesses

Disclaimer: Deb Brown, Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce invited the North Iowa bloggers to spend a day in Webster City as part of the “Six Bloggers on a Saturday” tour in December 2014. All opinions are my own. Part I & Part II

Ever since the bloggers tour in December, I’ve wanted to return to Webster City. We all have. But Saturday worked well for Beth and I, so we returned for a morning visit. Back in December, Deb coordinated visits to 10+ small businesses within the span of seven hours. We connected with more people and places than I can fit into three blog posts, so I’ll continue to share a little at a time. This post is dedicated to four small business owners who inspire me with their creativity.

R Company

R Company Sara Photo
Tina Fey stated, “It took my three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman” while she hosted the 2015 Golden Globe Awards. I lifted my glass and replied, “I hear you, lady.” Sometimes I joke about writing a fashion blog. It would be terrible because all of my outfits would feature me rotating between my two favorite Raygun graphic tees and that one purple sweater I found for $5.

Sarah Hisler Kopriva owns and operates R Company, an “upscale resale” clothing shop. When we visited in December, she explained her desire to help all of her customers look and feel their best, regardless of age or socioeconomic status. Kopriva has a quick wit that kept me laughing. I appreciate how she aims to give customers her honest opinions when they seek her styling advice. If a certain piece doesn’t look or fit quite right, she’s not afraid provide frank feedback.

Together, Kopriva and Tina Poland, who owns the attached Phairytales Salon, help many young people choose affordable prom and winter dance dresses and prepare for the special occasions. Kopriva and Poland understand the reality that dances like prom can create stress for budget-conscious families or young people whose parents or guardians can’t be as present as they’d like to be.

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I have no hard feelings against fashion. In fact, I totally want to look like Taylor Swift, but can hardly match my pants to my shirt. If you see me wearing an outfit that fits well and does not include a Raygun t-shirt, it was probably the work of a female family member.

Before she passed away, my mom used to keep me on track by helping me coordinate matching outfits and forcing me to go shoe shopping. Kopriva and Poland remind me of the women in my life who took the time to help me shop for my wedding dress and pick out winter boots. I’d be a regular at R Company if I lived closer to Webster City.

If you visit R Company, use the owl-themed bathroom! The other decorations may change with the seasons, but the owls remain.

r company bathroom Collage

Relax the Bath
Denise Mendenhall crafts unique bath and body products from her studio in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She was kind enough to include examples of products in our bloggers tour goody bag, including her popular body butter.

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Bath & Body Works used to all I knew about scented body products. I’ve since become fond of handcrafted lotions and soaps and enjoy our locally-made options in North Iowa. These products feel gentler on our skin and we find the bar soaps last a long time.

On Saturday, Medenhall explained how she looks to the European market for trends. She described their stricter labeling standards and tries to follow suit by adding batch numbers and expiration dates to her products. While many of us are lucky enough to own one KitchenAid mixer, Mendenhall is the proud owner of at least five which she uses to whip-up body butters.

Relax the Bath

Mendenhall mentioned she’s one of only five artisans in Iowa that are members of the Hand Crafted Soap Makers Guild. She dedicates a separate space in her house to soap making and utilizes food grade oils in her products like sustainable palm oil and cupuacu butter. She works long days to meet demand and because she loves her art.

Besides body butter, some of the other products we admired were little bath bombs and colorful bars of soap that incorporated various swirls of colors and shapes. You can find Mendenhall’s products on her Facebook page or SOS Vintage in Webster City.

inTANDEM workspace
Before we visited inTANDEM, I’d never heard of  workspace sharing. Darcy Swon created this space out of a community need for an affordable place for small businesses and start-ups to meet.

Group

People can rent a whole office by the month or a workspace the day with access to inTANDEM’s wireless internet, coffee machine, furniture and bathrooms. Small fees apply for reserving conference rooms and utilizing the printer and copiers. Members are given their own keys so they can access the office at their convenience. Workspace sharing is also a helpful option for people who serve the greater North Iowa/Ames area and have to split their time in different cities.

What struck me most about this space was its contemporary vibe and bright colors. Swon researched colors that stimulate creativity and chose to paint bright orange and Nickelodeon green accent walls. We spent two hours chatting in the big conference room and kicked around blog ideas. As someone who thrives on bright colors, I did feel mentally energized.

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In Mason City, we don’t have a workspace sharing business like inTandem but we do have a lot of space. My friend Sara Broers recently wrote about reframing Mason City’s dead mall space as possibilities. We’re left with a big, dead mall on Federal Ave, an empty K-Mart on 4th, and a mostly empty Southbridge Mall. I like Broers’ encouragement to think outside the box instead of complaining.

I’m encouraged to see Sensory World open in the Southbridge Mall. It’s an indoor play place dedicated to families who have children with special needs. What if we continued to repurpose these empty spaces and consider them for purposes beyond only retail space? I think of indoor markets Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, MN and NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and shared workspaces like inTANDEM.

What small businesses or start-ups are inspiring you right now? Do you have a favorite source for local bath and body products? 

wcbeth and jeni

Beth and I sent our greetings from the little sculpture park on our return visit.

The Ten Best Things I Ate During 2014 (Plus Some Very Honorable Mentions)

At Jeni Eats, I proceed into 2015 without a list of New Years Resolutions, except for these three goals: To spend 2015 “doing strange things with weird people,” to keep food blogging fun, and remain delightfully imperfect. From our household to yours, we wish you good things in 2015 and thank you for joining us here.

family photo

We tried to take a family photo

I had a difficult time summarizing my eleven favorite recipes from 2014, but found choosing my favorite foods was even more challenging. Here’s my best attempt at selecting just ten, plus a handful of very honorable mentions.

Top 10 Favorite Foods:

Dining at a table set for 2,000 was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Chef James Baker’s menu of honey-ginger-soy chicken, beans and rice, and spicy Ethiopian vegetables was one of the freshest and most flavorful meals I ate all year. You can try recreating the chicken and vegetables yourself with these recipes published in the Star Tribune. I did, but Bakers’ was still better.

Meal Serving Collage

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When I work in Mitchell County, I like to check out the daily hot lunch specials served at the Mennonite-owned and operated Kountry Kupboard. Half of the store sells groceries like baking supplies, homemade nut butters, cheeses and other bulk-food items while the other half functions as a cafe. I was most excited about a Friday fried fish special. The coating was flavorful and super crispy while the fish was moist and flaky. Fried fish is one of my favorite treats and this was the best (or eat least tied with Ward 6).

Each meal comes with the softest and fluffiest butterhorn rolls. The meatloaf is also fantastic. It’s better than my meatloaf and I make really good meatloaf.

Peppermint Ice Cream Bar

Cristen chose the Bauder Pharmacy Peppermint Ice Cream Bar as her favorite Iowan food in Iowa Bloggers Speak: Favorite Hometown Restaurants. We finally got to try the peppermint bar and meet Cristen at our first visit to the Iowa State Fair. The bar is layered with the creamiest ice cream imaginable and somehow, the combination of ice cream, peppermint, and Oreos didn’t strike us as too sweet.

  • Pastry Chef Diane Yang’s Lemon Curd Mousse Dessert at Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lemon Dessert wm

You may recognize this dessert because I just wrote about visiting Spoon and Stable over Christmas week. We liked the tart lemon flavor and fresh pineapple. Each bite brought a different texture and temperature. Basically, it was like magic.

Shrimp

My cousin Brian and his family live near Calumet Fisheries, a small seafood smokehouse at the edge of the 95th Street Bridge. The bridge was featured in The Blues Brothers movie, while the restaurant was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. We tried two varieties of smoked fish and smoked shrimp, enjoying everything immensely. However, the shrimp stood out. They weren’t overly smoked and had a firm texture like lobster. They tasted especially good dunked in the mild hot sauce.

More Chicago posts: Part I (includes Calumet) and Part II

  • Whole Fried Fish With Three-Flavors Sauce from Bangkok Thai Deli, Saint Paul, Minnesota 

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Thai restaurants have come and gone in the Twin Cities since we moved to Fargo in 2010, but our favorite is still Bangkok Thai Deli. We visited them when they were located in the back of that small grocery store with a shiny, mosaic chimney and we continue to stop by now that they’ve relocated to the old Burger King. On Valentine’s Day, we shared this whole, fried fish served in three-flavor sauce.

The fish skin is crispy and the sauce tastes sweet, sour, savory, and spicy. Bangkok Thai Deli also makes Jake’s favorite version of Pad Thai.

pork signatures supper club

Signatures Supper Club catered a work event where they served grilled butterfly pork chops. They tasted so much more moist and flavorful than this phone picture depicts. Of all of the pork tenderloins I tried during 2014, this was my favorite.

Fried Pickles WM

As part of the Webster City Bloggers Tour, we ate lunch at Grid Iron Grill. Owner Burk Risetter treated us to fried pickle chips with [good] ranch, of course:) I kept going back for more. Risetter takes pride in the care his cooks take in hand-breading most of their appetizers instead of purchasing frozen, pre-made products. We tried a variety of appetizers and dishes and could tell the difference.

More Webster City posts: Part I & Part II. Part III coming soon. 

I stayed at Country Heritage as part of the Franklin County Harvest Bloggers Tour in the fall. Our hosts prepared a lovely soup supper complete with three different choices. Jake and I loved Lacey’s scratch-made beef and vegetable soup with garden green beans and tender beef. We were surprised to learn this was the first time she ever prepared it. We also enjoyed a memorably good beef soup at City Limits Eatery in St. Ansgar. Beef soups often bore me or taste like tinned stock, but City Limit’s one was also scratch-made and perfectly balanced. Their salad bar was also my favorite of the year.

Papa's

This sandwich surprised me by being so compelling. Normally I hate boneless skinless chicken breast, but my friend Amy was right-on with her recommendation. I liked the flavor of the Greek seasoning blend that coating the chicken and the Greek salad topping. The fries are crispy and the ranch is good, too. what can I say? Ranch like North Iowa’s second ketchup.

  • Jake’s Pick: Poc-Chuc Taco from the Taco Joint, Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois

Amazing Taco

When we visited Chicago in April 2014, the Poc-Chuc taco was the Taco Joint’s special Monday taco. The griddled, marinated pork loin, habanero salsa and crunchy radish made for an addicting combination. Jake liked it so much, he returned for more during a business trip. I no longer see the Poc-Chuc tacos listed on the Taco Shop’s current menu, so you’ll have to ask if it’s still available.

Honorable Mentions
Let’s be real. It’s impossible to stick with only ten favorite tastes. Plus, I already cheated by giving Jake a pick. Here are seven more very honorable mentions.

Red Pepper Hummus

The 1910 Grille is a restaurant we visit for special occasions or bring our families. It’s unique to dine in the only operating Frank Lloyd Wright hotel. When Jake’s family spent the day in Mason City, ordered their red pepper hummus as an appetizer. I was expecting it to taste like the typical versions I’ve eaten before, but their hummus was so much better. We liked the fried pita triangles and the dip’s garlicky and slightly spicy punch.

Hashbrowns, LD’s Filling Station, Mason City, Iowa 

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LD’s is the first Mason City restaurant where I found hashbrowns listed as side potato option. I’ve since found that hashbrowns are a common side in North Iowa. They’re served with any meal of the day and I’ve yet to find ones that aren’t served crispy. LD’s makes my favorite, crispiest version.

More reasons why I like LD’s.

Beth Snack mix

I’m going to make the bold claim that Beth’s snack mix is the best snack mix ever. Travel With Sara and I nibbled on it all the way to Springfield, Illinois, and, when she gave me a tin for Christmas, I squirreled it away so I could enjoy it without Jake’s interference. This occurred during the week he wanted to eliminate gluten from his diet, so I feel less bad about not offering him a taste. This snack mix is so addicting because it’s seasoned with dill and contains a big variety of snacks.

Butchers

Jake and I enjoyed our first pork tenderloin sandwiches at Butcher’s Steakhouse. What I enjoyed the most were their thin, hand-battered onion rings. These types of onion rings are all too rare and so very special. Of course, they were served with ranch.

  • Pasta Salad from Cafe Moxo, Springfield, Illinois

Cafe Moxo

Sara and I enjoyed a lot of memorable food in Springfield, Illinois, but one of our favorites was this pasta salad from Cafe Moxo. I ordered too many fried foods on this road trip, so this vegetarian sandwich tasted especially refreshing. This pasta salad was tossed in a light dressing and contained fresh slivers of cucumber and feta.

More Springfield posts: Springfield Ghost Walk, Road Food, Attractions

bbq

Val of Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids is one of the first Iowa bloggers I met. She’s also a talented cook who introduced me to my first ham ball. Her baked potato dip is silly good and her baked beans are the best I’ve ever tasted. I don’t state this lightly, as they really, truly are. We enjoyed them during the Harvest Bloggers Tour and hear they’re legendary in Franklin County. You can find the recipe on her blog. They contain a secret and surprising ingredient.

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I returned to The Burnsville Center, my childhood mall, for this taste of nostalgia. While I’m unsure if the ownership has changed since our last visit with my mom, the Philly Bomb tasted exactly the same. I had more fun writing this post reminiscing about the 90’s mall experience than any other. Sometimes the most satisfying posts are the ones we write for ourselves.

My Most Read Posts Written During 2014

1. Thoughts On Our First Naturebox Snacks

2. My Knoephla Soup Recipe: A Taste of North Dakota In Iowa

3. Ipsy Glam Bag Review, April 2014 (followed by March, February & January)

4. My First Membox: A Korean Tries Korean Beauty Products

5. Introducing The Every Bar In Mason City Quest

6. How To Make The Perfect Frozen Pizza

7. Iowa Bloggers Speak: Favorite Hometown Restaurants

What was one of the best things you ate during 2014? 

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