This week we’re featuring the town of Holstein, Iowa and sharing some of the stories of rural revival happening here! Today’s guest blog post is from Bobbi Jo Clausen, owner of CornerHaus 101, and she’s giving us a glimpse into her life as a small town entrepreneur. Welcome, Bobbi Jo!
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As someone with a passion for cooking who loves coffee and being around family and friends, I have always wanted to start my own business and have talked it about for years. It wasn’t until my kids were off to college and I found myself a single parent with nowhere to grow in the job I had that I finally took the plunge. After being in the corporate world of sales and marketing, I decided it was my time to start a new chapter in my life. I knew I needed a change, and it was scary - and still is at times - but I did it!
I knew the community needed a coffee shop and that the main level of the historic bank building - which was built in 1896 and just happens to be the oldest building on Main Street - would be the perfect place. So I purchased the building and gave it a name. Since Holstein is a German community, and the address is 101 Main Street and located on the corner, we decided to have a twist on the name and went with CornerHaus 101.
Jeff (my boyfriend and partner in crime) designed the coffee shop, building the bar from barn wood and purchasing a lot of the furniture from auctions, and we fixed up the third floor to live in. We put a little open kitchen in the back of the main floor for cooking/baking and put my family’s old ranch sign above the exhaust fan. That sign brings back great memories and you can see it as soon as you come in. With the beautiful tin ceilings and nice big windows you don’t feel like you are in small town but in a big city. It’s such a cozy and intimate setting and we decided it would be a great venue to host small parties, baby or bridal showers, and birthday parties.
And it definitely has been. Christmas season finds us busy with private holiday parties for a lot of the businesses in and out of town. We have had everything from sit-down, homestyle prime rib meals to very relaxed events with just appetizers and cocktails. Basically whatever the customers would like, we will do! We try to be very flexible and go with the flow.
The community has been very supportive. Our morning customers are locals and passersby that stop because they see the coffee sign and big chandelier hanging in the window. During the week I open at 7 am, but generally I open doors earlier because I just live upstairs. So when Miss Emily (the expresso machine) is ready and when I have the fresh roast coffee on and scones are in the oven – I’m ready. I typically serve scones and muffins or cinnamon rolls in the morning.
When I have time to do lunches it is seasonal – now is the time for soups - or I will do salads and wraps/sandwiches. I also try to incorporate healthy options with smoothies and other foods.
And did I mention we offer cocktails, too? Yep, coffee and cocktails. :) On Thursdays we reopen at 4:30 for Thirsty Thursday and serve specialty drinks, or what I call Vibe drinks. We also work with the Holstein State Theater across the street to see what is playing, and then serve drinks that go with movie for a nice little happy hour before the movie. Some Saturdays we open up for college football games, and last year we even stayed open during a blizzard! During the Farmers Market, we reopen and set up bloody Mary and mimosa bar.
When it comes to running the business, it’s just Jeff and me. We have no employees, so I generally post on social media when I’m cooking in the kitchen and what I’m making … that way I get a count of who wants what and have none left over. I also cater a lot for local businesses that hold meetings and need food, and I will deliver or they can come by and eat.
Or, if Jeff and I have family stuff going on, we just put the “Closed” sign out and we go! We have both learned that life is short! And family is first.
I was raised on the farm outside of Holstein; my children were born in Kansas City, but I had a chance to move back here and work remotely and raise my kids here where I could be close to my family. Holstein is home. Everyone has embraced CornerHaus and we are very blessed. I love to see how our small community comes together and we are all here for each other. In a small community you have to work close and support the other businesses, and Holstein does that. I send my customers to the awesome little boutiques in town, the liquor store, hardware store, meat locker, etc. And I’m so glad I was able to raise my kids here and now have this opportunity to do what I have always wanted to do. Without the encouragement and support of my family, friends, and boyfriend Jeff, this never would have happened.
In closing, I just discovered we are part of the Historic Route 20. We get a lot of visitors traveling through and shopping local in our town. I get different groups of ladies that come to visit and stop in, like the red hat ladies, and you should stop by too. The best part is, I live right above the coffee shop in a beautiful loft that Jeff and I put together. I’m loving life.
CornerHaus 101 is open Monday-Friday from 7 am - 1 pm, Thursday from 4:30-7:30 pm, and closed on Sunday.
Find out more about the rural revival happening in Holstein, Iowa here: