By Bob Uphues
After introducing baked treats such as cakes, cookies and brownies last year at Zoo City Treats, 3748 Grand Blvd. in downtown Brookfield, Marjorie Nibert decided to take on the whole business this year.
Not only that, but Nibert found a business partner online – on the Brookfield Connections community Facebook group, no less – and set about expanding the store's footprint to create a separate bakery area, redecorating the interior and increasing seating for customers.
The store opened its doors under the new management and with a slightly new name – Zoo City Treats and Bakery -- on May 15.
"This is a fun place," said Nibert, a former nurse who'd been nudging former owner Fred Tyler to include her baked goods and got the go-ahead last year. "You can't come in here and eat ice cream and not be happy."
While the bakery end of Zoo City Treats is more visibly a part of the place, both Nibert and her partner, Karen Riendeau, took care not to change the store's star product – about 40 flavors of premium ice cream.
"It's the same ice cream, candy and prices," said Nibert. "We just added to it."
But the store has undergone a complete face-lift since it closed for the season late last year. Nibert and Riendeau have brightened up the place, replacing the old yellow, green and orange with a simple black and white palette accented by paintings of zoo animals.
They also removed a wall that separated the old Zoo City Treats from a storefront Tyler had used as an office and storage area. In that space are new display cases for the baked goods as well as more seating.
Having a couple of distinct spaces allows Nibert and Riendeau to offer room for ice cream socials, birthday parties and even cooking classes.
What you find in the bakery cases depends on the day, since its ever changing, said Nibert. But the store also can create seasonal and custom gift baskets, and if you want a special kind of cake – as long as you can show Nibert a photo of what you'd like, she'll make it.
"Someone asked, 'Do you have a book,' and I said we're not going to limit ourselves to a book," Nibert said. "Google the thing that you want, and that's what they did. They Googled it, these images came up, they picked out the one they wanted, they texted the picture to me and that's what they got."
While Nibert's specialty is creating the cakes, Riendeau knows the ice cream side of things well. Her first job at the age of 16 was working in an ice cream shop in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago. She ended up being the night shift manager at that store.
At Zoo City Treats Riendeau's still holding down the night shift after working her day job at an insurance office. Her daughter, Christine Sanchez, also works at the shop.
"I love coming here," said Riendeau, who moved to Brookfield just a year ago and responded to Nibert's Facebook post seeking a business partner on Brookfield Connections. "Eventually, it'll be my retirement job. I don't consider it work."
One significant change in the business is that Nibert and Riendeau plan to operate Zoo City Treats year-round instead of closing up for the winter, as had been the practice since the store opened in 2013.
The store's hours are noon to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. You can visit the website at www.zoocitytreats.com.