Walking into The Cup and Cake off of Main Street in downtown Belfield, Lori Kollar greets you with a western welcome, as she slides a plate of fresh caramel rolls into the bakery display case. Warm notes of coffee beans and hazelnut percolate the air. Before even placing your order, Kollar strikes up a conversation, making you feel at home. Then she suggests the dalgona for a morning pick-me-up.
In a matter of minutes, she whisks up a whipped hazel mixture and she dumps it on top of a cup already filled halfway with ice cubes, milk and a dark, rich cold brew. Taking a sip, you’re marveled, thinking you had ordered a Starbucks signature drink.
“So far, that has been one of the things that people say is they just love that they feel welcome coming into the store. So that’s been a positive thing that’s come through, and I try to greet people as they come in the door even if I have four or five people sitting here,” Kollar said, adding, “I love greeting people, so that’s something that I really enjoyed, and it’s just been positive outcome.”
This week, Kollar celebrates the two-year anniversary of her shop The Cup and Cake.
“This is a dream come true. Twenty-five years ago, I wanted to open a coffee shop; and two years ago, it came true,” Kollar said.
Before taking over the building that was once the location of a boutique shop in front and a small coffee shop in the back, Kollar used to work for the U.S. Post Office in Belfield. She’d order a coffee from the back on her daily delivery routes, wishing to open her very own shop. Then one day, the previous owner said the building was up for sale — Kollar’s dream slowly unfolded thereafter.
The Cup and Cake features a majority of homemade items that Kollar spends hours on creating, including bakery, fruit-infused waters, caramel, syrups, ice cream, soups and sandwiches. With a 24-hour notice, Kollar also does bread orders. With nearly 30 years making cakes, Kollar also custom makes cakes for weddings, anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, etc.
“Everybody wants to experience a treat of some sort in a bakery environment. So I would love for people to just come check it out. I hear a lot of people say, ‘Why should I go to a coffee shop? I don’t drink coffee.’ Oh my gosh, I don’t just make coffee. I have lemonade, I have fruit-infused water, I have smoothies, I have ice cream. What on that list don’t you drink,” Kollar said, with a giggle. “There’s so many more things to a coffee shop.”
Kollar is also working on incorporating upcoming popular items that make coffee shops stand out, such as offering white coffee. Since taking over the building, Kollar still helps support local businesses, showcasing about five entrepreneurs with items such as earrings, bracelets, candles and Ukrainian books.
One of Kollar’s main initiatives she strives for in her shop is giving people with special needs a chance in the work field, learning the trades of a barista while also working in a fun, lively environment. Kollar is hoping one day that her own challenged daughter will be able to work in the coffee shop.
Though she’s worn several different business hats from Mary Kay to Pampered Chef, Kollar’s life choices always steered toward the food industry. From her work in school cafeterias and delis, she has learned an aptitude of food service skills that has prepared her for the role she lives now.
“It takes a lot of time and sometimes, I don’t get things out very early. But I think the locals have finally figured out that after nine o’clock, I’ll have stuff out,” she noted. “So they’ve gotten accustomed to how I do things, and the people who are on vacation… (going to) Medora or wherever, they’re on their own schedule. So they’re usually not here at the crack of dawn. So they come in the afternoons and they’re usually pretty excited to just get a sweet treat or a coffee, and just be able to browse all the little boutique stuff that we have.”
When asked what she’s learned as a barista/business owner over the past two years, Kollar joked that it’s been a testament of ambition.
“Oh wow, I’ve really learned how to run a business,” Kollar said, chuckling. “That has been an interesting journey. I thought I knew how to run a business, but man, I have really learned a lot about running a business. So that has been a big one. I’ve always made homemade stuff, so that’s something that just comes natural. So that part isn’t hard, it’s just the timing of that (and) trying to get that right has been something that I need to work on.”
In the coming months, Kollar is working on buying the lot adjacent to her coffee shop, so she can create a drive-thru lane. She hopes that project will be finalized by next spring while also adding three booths inside the coffee shop for additional seating. With autumn closing in soon, pumpkin spice — also made from scratch — will take over Kollar’s coffee shop.
West-bound travelers who come into Kollar’s shop also can mark where they’re originally from the international map she has displayed on a wall.
“... (For) how many people from around the world stop in Belfield, North Dakota, it’s just amazing. I’ve had people from Australia. I’ve had people from the U.K., Germany and France is a big one,” she said, adding she’s had customers from Brazil.
At 53, Kollar remarked how bubbly being a barista can be, especially “when people know the little town I’m from, that’s just like a celebration.”
“I told my daughters that I just love my job because I get to meet people, and just to visit with them and get to know them a little bit, it’s just been the most positive experience in my life,” she added.
The Cup and Cake is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.