Biz Buzz: Restaurant benefits from to-go cocktails; Maquoketa business aids wedding; dessert shop finds online success

Bartender Scott Jacobs makes a Long Island iced tea at Dubuque Mining Co. in Dubuque on Friday. Long Island iced teas are one of the specialty to-go mixed drinks offered by the restaurant during the pandemic. PHOTO CREDIT: EILEEN MESLAR

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-states each Monday. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque and Maquoketa, Iowa.

For years, customers at Dubuque Mining Co. grew accustomed to enjoying its mixed drinks inside the restaurant.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the flurry of rule changes that followed have allowed bars throughout Iowa to serve alcoholic cocktails on a to-go-basis temporarily.

Dubuque Mining Co. announced on April 1 that it would offer its famous mixed drinks for carryout and curbside pickup.

“It was really big to start out with,” owner Guy Parkin recalled. “At that time, people hadn’t had one for a couple weekends, so there was a lot of demand. The first couple weekends were just crazy.”

Parkin said customers collectively ordered 350 mixed drinks on a to-go basis the first Saturday after such purchases became legal. He recalled many customers saying they were excited to go home and “sit out on their deck” while they enjoyed the beverages.

But Parkin said he doesn’t expect the craze to last, noting that the proclamation allowing carry-out mixed drinks is slated to expire Wednesday, May 27.

Bars and other establishments serving alcohol can reopen indoor spaces on Thursday, May 28, albeit with limited capacity. Parkin thinks it is highly likely that the to-go cocktail concept will be nixed by state officials as bars resume more traditional sales practices.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” he said. “This rule helped us get through everything, and some people will be upset they can’t do it anymore. But we are happy to see things getting back to normal around here.”

Restaurants in Dubuque County were allowed to reopen to dine-in customers on May 15, but Dubuque Mining Co. didn’t immediately seize that opportunity. Parkin said he plans to reopen the restaurant’s doors at some point this week.

Dubuque Mining Co. is located at 555 John F. Kennedy Road and can be reached at 563-557-1729.

SMALL BUSINESS AIDS WEDDING

A longtime Maquoketa business played a key role in an impromptu wedding earlier this month.

Melissa Ray, owner of Max Ray Jeweler in Maquoketa, agreed to stay open late on the afternoon of May 9, allowing a local bride-to-be to purchase a ring for her fiance just hours before they exchanged vows.

Ray said she was happy to play a role in the wedding.

“Of course, I was willing to say open late for them,” Ray said.

The last-minute ring purchase was essential for the wedding of Courtney Keller and her now-husband, Nolan, of Maquoketa.

Courtney and Nolan were slated to tie the knot in front of about 100 guests on May 9 but opted to postpone the wedding due to the pandemic.

“When that day came around, I was kind of upset,” Courtney recalled. “I had looked forward to that being our wedding day.”

Much to Courtney’s surprise, a group of close friends — with the help of Nolan — surprised her by crafting a plan to proceed with the wedding after all.

Courtney and Nolan were married at a friend’s house in Maquoketa, with a small group of close friends and family in attendance. Courtney’s father served as the officiant.

But they emphasized the impromptu wedding would have been impossible without Nolan’s ring — and the help of a local business.

Max Ray Jeweler, 134 S. Main St., was founded more than 75 years ago by Ray’s grandfather. Ray said she was happy to lend a helping hand for a local wedding.

And Courtney is pleased that a local business helped make her wedding day a reality.

“I work at a small business, and I shop at small businesses,” she said. “For me, to support a small business — especially these days — was really important.”

DESSERT BUSINESS FINDS SILVER LINING

The owner of a downtown Dubuque dessert business has found a way to grow sales in the midst of the pandemic.

Jill Takosky said Candle Ready Cakes recently established an online ordering system for popular products such as cakes and cupcakes. She also began offering “virtual cake classes” that allowed her to spread her baking wisdom to customers.

Takosky said the new offerings were born of necessity.

The spread of COVID-19 forced Candle Ready Cakes to close to walk-in customers for about two months. It also led to the postponement of weddings, which have long served as a key source of revenue for the business.

Takosky was amazed by the success of the online orders, which was a new offering for the business. Customers can pick up their items at the store, 197 Main St., during the morning or elect to have them delivered in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Candle Ready Cakes started selling baking “kits” to customers, who can use these ingredients to bake their own items while following along with a video tutorial offered by Takosky.

The new offerings have helped Takosky achieve an uptick in sales at a time when most businesses are struggling to stay afloat.

“As disappointing as this whole situation has been, it’s definitely pushed us to come up with new ways of doing things,” she said. “It’s pushed us out of our comfort zone in ways that will continue to help us in the future.”

Candle Ready Cakes reopened to walk-in customers on Tuesday. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.