The picture – of Karen Bodnar’s mother – joins other family photos at Betty’s Bakery and Café, which features home-baked items in Crown Point.
“My mom introduced me to the kitchen when I was young and I have a lot of great memories and had a lot of fun in the kitchen,” said Bodnar, who owns the bakery and café with husband John. “She gave me my love of being in the kitchen. Throughout my whole life, it was something that we shared.
“When I opened (the business), I named it after my mom. I thought it’s more of an old-fashioned name and that was more of the theme I was going for. Every day when I am here, I think of her and the different things we did and talked about … it’s a wonderful way of keeping her alive.”
The bakery and café’s menu features homemade soups, sandwiches and sweet treats ranging from bread pudding with caramel sauce to gooey almond butter cookies. Bodnar uses in-season fruits and vegetables and strives to utilize local produce.
“The recipes come from everywhere … some are my mother’s, grandmother’s and my husband’s grandmother’s,” Bodnar said. “The idea behind the business is to offer home-baked items that maybe your grandmother or mother made at home and that you just don’t have time to make anymore or you are older and only have two people to bake for. Who wants a whole batch of cookies for just two people?”
She also does special orders, including putting together a dish or treat based on a favorite family recipe. Her most popular item is the Bulldog brownie: a triple chocolate brownie named for Crown Point’s mascot.
“It’s by far the most popular … partly because of the name, but partly because it’s triple chocolate,” she said.
Bodnar fell into the baking business beginning with her 20-year career at the former Phil Smidt’s restaurant in Hammond. While working for the restaurant, she would bring in her extra baked goods from home.
“The girls liked them and would ask me to make them. I started making bread pudding with caramel sauce – my signature item – and the restaurant wanted to serve it,” she said. “I started making it for the restaurant and other restaurants and then started making birthday and wedding cakes and it just sort of grew.
“I did it out of my home for several years until it grew to the point that I couldn’t do it out of my home any longer. My children are very supportive of me starting the business.”
Bodnar worked with NW-ISBDC business adviser Cindy Bertram even before she opened her doors.
“She sat with me and really led me through a lot of things. We talked about social media and doing Facebook or Twitter, the advantages and what form is best for my business. She also went over other forms of marketing and financing – the different avenues I could find,” Bodnar said. “She also worked with me on my business plan … I had a few glitches and she walked me through that. She was just huge.”
Beyond recipes and the business’s name, Bodnar’s family is at the core of the bakery and café. Her daughter, Lara Wolters, helps with baking and customer service and son Jon-Stefan also assists with service and “is my life-saver.”
“My husband and son built almost everything here,” Bodnar said of the shop’s interior. “My daughter helps me in the kitchen when she can. She is a teacher so she has her career.
“I am passing down as much as possible. We are trying to keep traditions alive.”
Long-term goals for Bodnar include having her family play an even larger role in the business as she looks to expand in the future.
“I want to build the business to the point of more locations … that was the overall goal all along. I want my family to be involved as much as possible so as we grow they are more and more involved,” she said.
Today, she appreciates the community support as she strives to give back.
“I support local fund-raising and an intern from the high school is starting with me. She wants to go to pastry school when she graduates,” Bodnar said. “The best thing I enjoy is the people. Since we came to Crown Point, I love it. People are extremely supportive. They really want their small businesses to succeed.
“I actually get those comments: ‘How are you doing?’ ‘We like that you are here and we want you to be successful.’ How can you go wrong? It’s wonderful.”
Betty’s Bakery & Café is located at 924 S. Court St. in Crown Point. For more information, contact (219) 310-8460, visit online at www.bettysbakerycafe.com or follow them on Facebook.