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Sweet and Savory

It’s a Labor of Love for the Owners at Over The Top Bakery Cafe

Writer / Julie Yates
Photographer / Tony Straw

Vivian Bolen and Annette Martin are celebrating eight years of serving up sweet and savory dishes to happy customers at Over The Top Bakery Cafe in North Liberty. The duo cooks everything from scratch. Fresh ingredients are sourced from nearby farmsOver The Top Bakery Cafe and local merchants whenever possible.

The sisters combined their strengths, and the result is an eatery that is both a cafe and a bakery. It’s not only enjoyed by locals – visitors to nearby Potato Creek State Park as well as people from the surrounding area frequently drop in. Families have made a tradition of buying cakes for special occasions, and campers find their way into town for a warm meal when the weather turns cool.

“We opened in November of 2014,” Bolen says. “At the time both of us were ready for a job switch. We leased to own a former bakery that had sat empty for six years. It didn’t take us too long to get ready to open since the space already had equipment in it. With the help of family, it took us three weeks to get it all cleaned up.”

“We knew North Liberty could use it, and we also knew it couldn’t be just a cafe or just a bakery,” Martin says. “Our small town needed both. We serve sandwiches on bread that is made here, so then we also sell loaves of the bread.”

When asked what the bestseller is, the sisters share that all sweets are popular but people love the apple fritters and filled doughnuts. Before the shop opened, two of their cousins took a couple of days to teach them how to make cake and yeast doughnuts. After the first month, they felt competent enough to start providing a large variety of filled doughnuts.

Besides heading up doughnut and bread production, Martin is also in charge of the cafe operations. Although there is a set menu, there are also rotating specials that are real crowd pleasers. One example is chicken pot pie, served on the first and third Wednesdays in the months after Labor Day. Other specials include homemade chicken and noodles, and spaghetti and meatballs.

“I don’t like to eat the same thing every day and neither do our customers,” Martin says. “The specials are usually something that takes more time to prep, or are seasonal like winter comfort food. People really like the Asian chicken wrap, or stir-fry with fresh vegetables as ordered.”

Over The Top Bakery Cafe

Bolen and her team are responsible for all the cakes, cookies and pies. She began decorating cakes at age 10 through 4-H. In junior high and high school, she decorated cakes and later worked at the now closed Dainty Maid Bake Shop in South Bend. A monitor in the cafe’s dining room runs a continuous loop showing every cake that’s been decorated there throughout the years since it has been open. Kids love to see their birthday cakes from years past.

“We have three cake decorators, and one I taught in 4-H when she was 9,” Bolen says. “If someone comes in with a picture of what they want, we can do it. We make our own icing. Each batch takes 35 pounds of powdered sugar. It doesn’t taste anything like the kind bakeries get from food suppliers.”

All pie crusts, fillings, cakes and cookies are made from scratch. Over The Top gets so many requests at holiday times that it is best to order a couple weeks ahead. There are dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free options. Accommodations can be made for people who have allergies to ingredients such as cinnamon.

Bolen and Martin love to support the local businesses around them. Amish Country Dairy is their source for milk products, and the lunch meat served is from Bob’s Country Store. Fresh produce is purchased from nearby growers.

“A lot of effort and energy goes into owning a business,” Bolen says. “It takes a lot of time. We are closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but we use those days to get groceries, do paperwork and get ready for the week. Our mom and aunt come every Tuesday afternoon to stamp boxes and bags. For the first three years they came every morning to make doughnuts.”

“We have a lot of support from our friends and family,” Martin adds. “Our employees are like family to us. We always get a lot ofOver The Top Bakery Cafe positive feedback. It makes it all worthwhile.”

Over The Top Bakery Cafe is located at 112 North Main Street in North Liberty. For more info, call 574-656-3321 or visit overthetopbakerycafe.com.

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