The Danish Mill Bakery and Sandwich Shop opened in May of 2010 and is owned by Tom and Patty Nikolai. Patty had run Island Fantasy Gifts at the same location since 2007 and with the economic downturn affecting gift sales and my job security doing IT consulting, we decided to take matters into our own hands and expand into food service and open our own restaurant. While there were many fine establishments on the Island, we felt there was room for, and a need for, a quality homemade bakery and deli. Somewhere you could get fresh, home style baked goods, quality deli meats and cheeses, deli style sandwiches, soups and salads, and quality coffees and espresso drinks.
With that in mind, we worked with a local architect – Mike Kickbush – to see if he could design a space that would fit our needs. We wanted the bakery to be Danish themed because of my family heritage on the Island (see family history page). So Mike asked us to look at Danish Architecture to get some ideas on what kind of looked we wanted. When I “googled” Danish architecture on the web, I saw a lot of windmills and that is where the idea for the windmill entrance came from. I thought how cool it would be to enter the Danish Bakery through a Danish Windmill – but did not really think it would be practical. I brought it up to Mike as a “crazy idea” – but he took it and ran with it. When he brought us back a design – we were amazed and delighted. It was exactly what we had envisioned. This was the spring of 2009, and we knew we would want to be open before Memorial Day of 2010. After a minor road bump with zoning that took several months to work through, we got requests for bids out to contractors in September. See Construction page for more details.
With construction underway, we had a ton of other things to figure out. Equipment, suppliers, recipes, menus, decorating, employees, licenses, etc… It was quite overwhelming. But by finding quality partners and listening to their advice, we worked through it. My mom, Peg Nikolai, took the lead on getting recipes lined up. She is a wonderful baker, and had many family recipes that we use. She also found and experimented with many other recipes that we now use as well. Since we had our hands full with all the other stuff, this was a huge help – we could not have done it without her. We were fortunate to find and work with some quality partners for are main supplies:
- Boar’s Head Deli Products
Supplied by Novotny Deli Provisions out of Delafield, WI. My brother Bob suggested we look into Boar’s Head when we told him about the Deli idea. We had not heard of them before, but when I looked into it – I quickly determined they had the best deli products available. And when we first tasted it – we knew for sure. Logistics is always an issue on the Island, but luckily we were able to get that worked out. Guy Novotny and has staff were great to work with – and their training and advice, along with opening day on-site support, was essential. Opening day would have been disastrous without the steady demeanor and experience of Peter being on-site and helping us work through issues.
- Door County Coffee and Tea Company.
Again, the best product available and wonderful service and training. Training at their site in Carlsville brought us quickly up to speed on how to make all the different espresso drinks and smoothies. And when our used coffee maker turned out to be defective a week before opening – they scrambled to get us new one so that we didn’t miss a beat.
- Dierks/Waukesha Food Service.
Tom Muehl took the time to understand our business and help us figure out everything we need, from produce to paper products, and everything else you need to run a restaurant. They are a great company to partner with, and were a tremendous help for newbies that needed a lot of TLC.
- Valley Bakers in Appleton, WI.
We found about Valley Bakers a little late in the process, but better late than never. We stopped at their facility a week before we opening, and they helped us figure out some of key bakery issues. They have been a wonderful supplier, and offer quality products and training. We have attended several free seminars they have put on – which are great opportunities to learn new things and network with other bakers.
So we opened on Friday, May 21st – the weekend before Memorial Day. It was a whirlwind – some of the longest days we ever worked – but very fulfilling. Our daughter’s, Sara and Ali, worked for us and were such a huge help – having worked in the food service industry before. My Mom baked 4 days a week, and my two nieces, Brittany and Megan, worked for us as well. My Dad helped out with hauling garbage to the dump and making the ferry trip every week to pickup Boar’s Head – it was truly a family affair. We had a great first season and have made many new friends. People seemed to truly enjoy and appreciate our products and service, and I think it really has been a great addition to the Island. We look forward to many more successful seasons – and will strive to offer the very best bakery, deli and coffee not only on the Island but in all of Door County.