Biz Buzz: Cuba City farm enjoying soap success; pop-up shop coming to Bellevue; Maquoketa bar opens

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-state area. This week, we highlight developments in Bellevue and Maquoketa, Iowa, and Cuba City, Wis.

For Cuba City resident Stephanie Tranel, making soap started out as a hobby. Today, it has evolved into a budding business that draws inspiration from her family farm and reaches consumers across the country.

Tranel Family Farms Soap commenced operations this spring.

Its products now are available at multiple vendors in southwest Wisconsin and Iowa. Customers also can order the soaps online, and Tranel said shipments have been made to all around the U.S., including Vermont and Texas.

“It has been kind of a surprise to us how quickly things have taken off,” she said. “People have been really supportive, whether it’s our neighbors down the road or people across the country.”

To make her company’s soaps, Tranel uses a wide array of ingredients from the Tranel Family Farms property in Cuba City.

The products start with organic whole milk from cows on the property. It is mixed with sodium hydroxide and then added to fatty acids.

The soaps feature a variety of herbs, flowers and crops that are collected from the pastures, fields and gardens on the land, Tranel noted. She said the addition of these ingredients give the soaps “their own story and purpose.”

The bars are made within the Tranels’ Cuba City home, with help from Stephanie’s children and husband, Wisconsin Rep. Travis Tranel.

Stephanie acknowledged that “it can be difficult” to find time for making soap, especially while raising five children and tending to the farm. For the Tranel family, the process has provided a nice break from contending with a particularly challenging year in agriculture.

“With the way farming has been going, it has been a hard year,” Stephanie said. “Making the soaps has almost been like therapy for us.”

Customers can learn more about Tranel Family Farms Soaps at


A pop-up shop in Bellevue will provide a new shopping destination for women and add to a growing sense of momentum in the downtown district.

Posh No. 130 will open at 130 S. Riverview St. on Thursday, Oct. 3, according to owner Lucy Zeimet. She said the store will sell women’s clothing “in all sizes,” as well a variety of home decor.

Zeimet worked as a dental hygienist for 35 years before retiring about four years ago. Her thoughts turned toward opening a boutique.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I decided, ‘Now is the time,’” she said. “It is a new adventure for me.”

Zeimet believes the “pop-up” shop concept provides an ideal opportunity. She plans to operate the business four days per week for at least the next four months.

At the end of January, she will assess how the business is doing and consider turning it into a full-time venture.

Zeimet is confident her boutique will add to a growing list of attractions in downtown Bellevue. She also believes there is growing interest in stores like hers.

“These boutiques really seem to be trending right now,” she said. “The big box stores are struggling, and people are looking for a more-intimate shopping experience.”

Posh No. 130 is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. It is also open by appointment and can be reached at


A new bar has opened in a well-known Maquoketa structure.

The Den began serving customers earlier this month in the basement of Decker Hotel, 128 N. Main St.

Owner Donna Cooper opened the business along with her husband, Eric. She hopes it will serve as a gathering spot for out-of-town visitors and local residents alike.

“It reminds me of the show ‘Cheers’,” she said. “It is just a really nice, cozy, laid-back atmosphere.”

Customers at The Den can play pool for free and listen to live music. The owners also feature a limited menu of soups and sandwiches.

The Coopers moved to Maquoketa a little more than two years ago after spending multiple years living in and around the Quad Cities. Donna said the couple “fell in love” with the hotel during previous visits to Maquoketa and that operating a business within the 144-year-old structure is a dream come true.

Donna noted that she will continue to work at a nearby cafe during the day. Eric, meanwhile, is a plumber.

Both are more than happy to log hours at The Den after their day jobs.

“It is a lot of hours, but we both really enjoy it,” she said.

The Den is open from 5 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday. It is closed the other days of the week.