Ice cream sandwiches made with house made cookies at Myrtle Mae’s in downtown Kenosha. – visitkenosha.com photos
by Tina Johansson
National Pi Day and the 95th birthday of the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Kenosha has a whole new meaning for Kelly Deem.
On March 14, the 34-year-old Kenosha resident and successful owner of Elsie Mae’s Bakery & Cannery opened her second business in the historic building store front.
“It was awesome,” said Deem. “All the powder sugar from the sky couldn’t keep the people from coming in.” And oh, did it snow, especially along the lakefront. “We were very lucky because it was busy at both stores.”
The new shop, Myrtle Mae’s Sugar Emporium, is located directly across the hall from Elsie Mae’s. “I have a very detailed, very structured ten year plan, and that store was not part of the initial plan,” said Deem. Once the old theatre began to undergo renovation, the site became available and the opportunity was too good to ignore, she added.
Myrtle Mae’s offers places to sit and have a cup of Dark Matter Coffee of Chicago; enjoy a cone from Purple Door Ice Cream of Milwaukee; and specialty chocolates from Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading supplier of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products. Myrtle Mae’s also offers a build your own cookie dough bar, and more.
Signature items at the new place include: Sounds Delicious – an ice cream and pie sandwich; Pie Shakes – as seen at Kenosha’s HarborMarket; M4 – Myrtle Mae’s Maple Mixer coffee beverage with maple syrup and vanilla bean cream; and specialty root beer floats.
Deem named her businesses after her grandmothers. “Building Elsie Mae’s was such an emotional experience for me,” she said. The entrepreneur went on to explain that her maternal grandmother Elsie was all about recipes and creating a perfect end result while using high quality, local ingredients. “I treat my business the same way.”
Indeed Elsie Mae’s uses locally-sourced produce and other ingredients in its pies which range from sweet to savory (there are quiches and seasonal pot pies).
Her paternal grandmother Myrtle Mae had a playful side and enjoyed the social aspect of cooking with others. “I wanted to create a place that I knew my kid would love to be at. It’s still high quality, but it’s also about having fun,” said Deem.
Many may not know Deem by name, but they know her pies. Elsie Mae’s mini pies are a hit at farmers markets and festivals from Chicago to Milwaukee. The Wadsworth farmers market is the first place this writer had a taste of her decadent chocolate bourbon pecan pie.
Deem said she could sell her pies in grocery stores, however she prefers to expand her presence at farmers markets. So far the business participates in 22 of the markets.
In fact, local outdoor markets is where Elsie Mae’s got its start several years ago. The business moved into a brick and mortar site in downtown Kenosha, and later to the Orpheum, its current home.
July, when much of the fruit is in season, is when Elsie Mae’s churns out the most pies. “In one day in the summer, we sell as many as 1,500 mini pies,” said Deem, who has degrees in biology and fishery science, as well as a certificate in geographic information analysis.
Deem plans to hire 35 people during the month of May to get ready for the farmers markets and festivals. “For 89 percent of the people that work for us, it is their first job,” said the owner.
Myrtle Mae’s is located at 5819 Sixth Avenue in Kenosha. For more information call 262.914.9198.