Kuehls honored for dairy promotion

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Treats owners Ron and Mary Kuehl received a Dairy Best award for their use of dairy products.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor



rowing up in Northeast Iowa, Ron Kuehl dreamed of owning an ice cream shop. No particular reason—he just thought scooping cold treats for customers would be great fun.

Now co-owner with his wife, Mary, of Treats on Bridge Street, Ron’s dream has come true. And while owning a bistro that sells ice cream and lots more is fun, it’s also a lot of work. The challenges of the business include scheduling a staff that averages 7 or 8 employees, coming with the new combinations for the bistro’s signature panini sandwiches and wraps, and offering menu items that are fresh and locally sourced.

But make no mistake: The joys of business ownership far outweigh its challenges.

“Meeting people and talking to them has been one of the greatest rewards,” Mary said. “We have so many out-of-town customers who say they heard about us from someone who enjoyed lunch here, and that’s very gratifying.”

Treats, which is located in downtown Elkader, also has a big loyal local following. Pairs of people and several small groups meet there regularly for coffee and small talk. Business meetings are frequently conducted there, too. The unhurried, unpressured atmosphere of the shop is one reason people return to it again and again.

And, of course, there’s the coffee and the treats.

The bistro offers a full menu of coffee drinks and also a wide assortment of sandwiches, wraps and soups. There are eight ice cream flavors to choose from that can be served in a cone or dish, or as a sundae, shake or malt. All that adds up to a whole lot of dairy. In fact, the Kuehls were honored last month with a “Dairy Best” award from the Clayton County Dairy Committee. The award honors restaurants that do “an outstanding job of serving real dairy products to the public.” The couple was overwhelmed and grateful for the recognition.

“Although we’re usually thought of as a ‘coffee shop,’ we rely heavily on dairy products,” Mary said. “Each week we use 20-25 gallons of milk. Some is steamed and used in our espresso coffee drinks. We also use milk in our shakes and malts, and sell it cold by the glass.”

Milk is also used in Treats’ homemade soups and pies, and each of their panini sandwiches features provolone, Swiss or Cheddar cheese.

“One of our favorite sandwiches is the triple grilled cheese panini that features all three cheeses,” Mary said.

In addition to supporting the local dairy industry, the Kuehls support local farmers by purchasing fresh, in-season produce. They also support local artists whose work covers the bistro’s walls giving it an art gallery feel.

Ron and Mary are entering their ninth year as Treats’ owners. The couple purchased the business in 2009. Former manager Kim Cooper managed the business until the Kuehls relocated here Memorial Day weekend 2010.

Setting up shop and home in Elkader was a homecoming for the Kuehls. Ron grew up in Elkport. After graduating from Central High School in 1966, he attended Iowa State University until he was drafted. He returned to Iowa after he was discharged from service and worked in soil conservation for many years. Mary, which grew up in the state of New York, worked from Ron while she was a graduate student at Iowa State University. After she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees, they moved to Florida where Mary had a position on the faculty at the University of Florida. Ron built a career as a successful soil consultant.

“After 29 years as a professor and researchers, I felt I’d accomplished just about everything I wanted to do,” Mary said. “We were visiting in Elkader and stopped by Treats literally the day the ‘for sale’ sign went up. Since we were both looking for a change, we decided ‘why not?’”

Although the business is the couple’s primary focus, Mary remains on the Florida faculty teaching online courses. She was also appointed the first woman to head the 6,500-member Soil Society of America.

“This is all very different from what we did before but we’re very happy we made the move,” Ron said. “And it was so gratifying to get a dairy award. That really means a lot to us.”

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