Forget Mom and Pop. Mothers and their kids run the show at these spots.

By Alicia Underlee Nelson
December 23, 2020
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Flour House Bakery and Coffee
| Credit: Joe Crimmings

At Flour House Bakery and Coffee, the scent of pumpkin cinnamon rolls with caramel icing dances in the air, spicy and sweet. With its original wood floors, arched windows and tin ceiling, the bakery looks like the elegant 1870s pharmacy it once was. But it smells like home—and that has kept this sunny Main Street spot just off Interstate-80 in Princeton, Illinois, bustling, even during a pandemic.

“Everything we make is something that their mom or their grandma made,” says Terri Zearing, who runs the business with Sallee Zearing, her daughter. “It’s all from scratch and it’s made on-site.”

Shifting to takeout-only wasn’t how the duo planned to celebrate seven years in operation. But they’re taking this challenge (like all the others that come with starting a small business) in stride, baking up the bagels, biscotti and monster cookies their customers have come to count on. “It has been quite the journey, to say the least,” says Sallee. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but I just can’t quite imagine doing this with anyone else.”

She’s not the only one. You’ll find intergenerational dream teams behind all these spots, proving that maybe Mom does know best. Or, at the very least, she makes a mighty good business partner.

Winterset, Iowa

The Iowa Theater
| Credit: Courtesy of The Iowa Theater

A vaudeville-era small-town movie house operating at 20 percent capacity (and without a single new film for months) should be struggling. But when Marianne Fons and her daughter, Rebecca Fons, spearheaded a $1.5 million restoration and reopened this Italianate gem in 2017, they promised the marquee would never go dark again. Residents who recall 35-cent tickets can still escape into a classic film or a Hollywood blockbuster, complete with Iowa wine and real-butter popcorn.

“You can see the marquee aglow from blocks away. It gives me shivers every time,” says Rebecca Fons. “It’s one of the things I'm most proud of in my life."

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

When Jerome Butler opened his Twin Cities Liberian restaurant, he knew exactly who he wanted to run the kitchen—his mother, Bambe Brooks. Now customers can sample Bambe’s interpretation of her own mom’s recipes, as well as dishes she’s developed herself. Bambe recommends cassava leaves prepared with antioxidant-rich red palm oil, jollof rice or oxtails with white rice. “We don’t have machines. We do it the oldfashioned way, with our hands,” she says. “Everything we make here is fresh.” That includes the refreshing, four-ingredient ginger beer; fans order it by the gallon from Mama Ti’s online store.

Kimmswick, Missouri

Mary Hostetter has served her mom’s and grandma’s recipes at The Blue Owl, a cafe outside St. Louis, since 1985. In 1997, her daughter Kim signed on to help run the business. Life was relatively quiet until the world (including Food Network, Oprah and, yes, MWL) discovered Mary’s Levee High Apple Pie, a towering creation packed with 18 apples, available for shipping. “When people come to The Blue Owl, it’s for more than just good food,” Kim says. “My mom greets everyone at the door.”

Olathe, Kansas

KC Wine Co.
| Credit: Courtesy of KC Wine Co.

Julie and Kirk Berggren dreamed of expanding their pumpkin patch. Their daughter, Taylor Roesch, explains that Plan B emerged while Kirk was working abroad: “My mom and I hopped a fence, and she put in a bid and bought this property while he was in China. She made a phone call and said ‘Hey, we bought a vineyard!’” Now the family grows both pumpkins and grapes, as well as blackberries and flowers. Julie and Taylor’s KC Wine Co. tasting room serves wine and cider, plus wine slushies and Vine Coolers (basically boozy frozen pops), a hit product that’s available at Kauffman Stadium during Royals games.

Watford City, North Dakota

In 2011, Beth Veeder bought an old department store and began transforming it into a boutique. Last year, it weathered twin shocks that rattled her scrappy western town. “It wasn’t just the pandemic,” Beth explains. “We lost the oil industry just like that—overnight.” To compensate, she expanded online sales, bringing the Meyers look to the masses. Each filmy dress, cozy cardigan and pair of chunky boots is something Beth and her three daughters (who double as buyers and muses) love and wear. Alex Ann handles purchasing. Lindsay manages the coffee shop and art gallery Beth owns next door. Jessie, a popular musician, headlines open mic nights out front, with the next generation of Veeder girls dancing at her feet.

Order Up

You’ll also find cool multi-gen stories behind these online retailers.

MOLARÁ BRANDS

In Nigeria, Josephine Oyelakin hires artisans to craft headbands and wraps from raw silk and bold Ankara fabric. In Minneapolis, daughter Omolara sells them, plus shirts and baby onesies declaring Strong Women, Strong World. molarabrands.com

BISON BOOTIES

Erica Hager first stitched soft-soled baby booties for her daughter. Now it’s a business. Her mom, ReNay, assists with sales, and grandma Irene helps sew the booties, adult slippers and face masks in Mandan, North Dakota. bisonbooties.com

DOOR COUNTY COFFEE AND TEA CO.

Along with her sons and daughter-in-law, Vicki Wilson ships fresh-roasted coffee and fruit preserves from Wisconsin—including many made with the region’s legendary cherries. doorcountycoffee.com