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Bakery & Brewery: A Tale of 2 Success Stories in the Heart of Iowa

Strong ties with their communities help fuel these establishments.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on June 10, 2022

Jenny Oaks owns Sweet Oaks Bakery + Bistro in Collins, IA
Rick Lozier

From high tech to high end, entrepreneurs in Ames and the Heart of Iowa rise to the occasion. And that’s especially true for Sweet Oaks Bakery + Bistro. The newcomer to the small town of Collins offers carry-out options for breakfast and lunch, as well as a dazzling array of custom cakes and other baked goods.

Owner Jenny Oaks, who began baking at age 14, is mostly self-taught. She worked in the industry for more than a decade when she decided to hang up her apron and become a full-time mom to her children, now ages 3 and 4. But the lure of creating kept calling her back.

“After feeling like I had lost myself, I decided I needed to start doing something with cakes again,” Oaks says. “Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap my head around it. I went from this very small, custom bakery kitchen to a full restaurant, coffee bar and bakery.”

“This community blows me away every single time, going above and beyond anything I ever imagined. They are so willing to step up and help their neighbors.”

Jenny Oaks

What started as a creative outlet soon became an enterprise.

“This business actually started as a hobby, and I was crazy enough to have my kids here with me while I was working for the first few months,” she says. “Little did I know my business would go through a huge growth spurt. I eventually couldn’t handle it alone, so I started my kids in daycare, then hired help. From there, (the business) felt like it exploded.”

Fenceline Beer Lab in Huxley, IA
Fenceline Beer Lab

From Hobby to Brewery in Huxley

Another “hobby gone wild” is Fenceline Beer Lab in Huxley. Susan and Jonathan Frantz were home brewers whose love of experimentation drove them to larger and larger batches.

“We’d been brewing beer at home for more than 20 years, and it had always occupied some part of our minds that ultimately, we’d spend a good portion of our days in a brewery,” Susan Frantz says.

Eventually, they realized their dream of opening a brewery. And then the pandemic hit. “We didn’t know what shape that would take or when, but we’re here now, ready to share our own space and creations,” she says.

Fortunately for the Frantzes, the supportive community kept them afloat and the brewery continues to offer its envelope-pushing concoctions, alongside food pairings.

Oaks says the strong ties local communities have with their local small businesses are part of what makes her effort so rewarding. “I tend to get these crazy ideas that typically involve my community. I like to be a positive influence, so I offer events and fundraisers to help members in and around the community,” Oaks says.

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