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West Bend brings in the new, keeps the old

Town’s success lies in combining the two

February 17, 2013
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

WEST BEND - West Bend has seen its share of new businesses over the last year, but that's not the only thing that keeps it moving forward.

"New is good. Part of the good things that go on in this town is, we keep that which is old," said John Zaugg, Chamber of Commerce vice president.

With two implement dealers, a strong car dealership, and a competitive lumberyard and grocery store, "basically everything a person needs they can get here in town," he said.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Linda Kay shows off some buns she was preparing for a catering job. Kay took over this bakery on Iowa Highway 15 in West Bend in June 2012. In addition to catering, Kay specializes in cakes and cut-out cookies.

The Broadway Fitness center just opened in the town, while CB Studios LLC, a photography studio and antique store, has been going strong since early 2012.

"As far as economic development, we're looking at future growth in the industrial park No. 2," said Mayor Marilyn Schutz. "We have several lots that are for sale, and I think some of those may be coming to fruition."

There have also been new houses built, she said.

Zaugg said that like many towns, the school could use more kids, and getting more jobs in town is always key to bring in new people. Still, West Bend is a good place that attracts people from elsewhere.

"We have 750-ish people in town," he said. "With everything we have, it takes more than 750 people to support it. We draw people in from the surrounding area."

Country Maid Inc. was the first business to move in to the then-new industrial park in 2011. This year, the makers of the Butter Braid pastry have finished putting in a second production line, complete with a new mixing system and more automation for the plant as a whole.

"We made more people operators instead of laborers," said Darren Massner, the company's chief executive officer. "That was one of the goals of the project."

Instead of packaging each pastry by hand, he said, now a worker can simply supervise the machine.

"This way they can not work as hard, and at the end of the day they're not so physically tired," Massner said.

A big yellow industrial robot now loads the packaged products onto pallets and wraps those pallets in plastic. Before, employees had to do all that, and walking around and around the pallets with plastic wrap was a source of employee injuries, he said.

"Nobody misses lifting all those boxes."

The pastries are still braided by hand.

The company hired a part-time seasonal crew to run the second production line, Massner said. The line began production in October and will operate until some time in February; then the company will just use one line until next fall.

There were also more full-time hires in other departments.

There's a new baker of sweet delectables out on Iowa Highway 15, which runs through town. The bakery is now known as Linda Kay's and offers more than just cakes.

Kay said she'd worked there for about two and a half years, but took over the business in June 2012.

"My mom used to do cakes at home, so in the past I've had experience with it," Kay said. "Then, so that we could get involved with that and the catering - we've done meat for special events in the past - so we just combined it all."

Kay produces primarily cakes and cut-out cookies, as well as the catering.

"We've always lived here our whole life," she said. "It's just a good community. A very supportive community. People like to keep most of their business in town."



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