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Blue @ Work

Hospitality, made to order

Main Street Cafe & Bakery, Ankeny and Des Moines, Iowa

We asked some of our long-time small business customers why they chose — and continue to choose — Wellmark for their health coverage. Here's the story of the family-owned business, Main Street Cafe & Bakery.

Walk into either location of Main Street Cafe & Bakery External Site in central Iowa, and you're first greeted by glass cases full of made-from-scratch breakfast treats, cakes, and cookies. A close second? A warm smile and hello from a staff member. And that kind of gentle hospitality makes sense when owners John and Bene Zehr used their favorite restaurant, Disney's Main Street Bakery External Site, as the inspiration for their cafes.

A few years ago, daughter Brooke and son-in-law Ryan McCauley joined on as partners, and the business has continued to grow. Currently, Main Street has about 50 full-time employees (almost 75 total, including part-time help) in Ankeny and Des Moines.

Starting from scratch

Before becoming a partner, Ryan worked in procurement and supply chain operations. He got his four-year degree and received his MBA before ever working in a restaurant. So when he came on board at Main Street, there was a pretty steep learning curve. "I did everything backwards," says Ryan. "It's very humbling to step on the line in the kitchen." With two bustling shops, and a growing catering business, staff need to be able to jump in wherever needed. And now Ryan can get right in there with them, too.

By cross-training and ensuring employees get exposure to different areas of the business, Main Street not only creates an agile team, but also provides valuable experience to their employees if they seek opportunities outside of the shop.

This attention to detail doesn't stay in the back-of-house, though. Main Street will let you customize almost anything, and its health-conscious and gluten-sensitive items (which require special preparation) are really popular. The entire staff is even trained to ask someone if they are gluten-free or have celiac disease External Site when placing their order. "I think people really appreciate the attention to detail and service that we bring," says Ryan. "We do everything we can to keep them coming back."

Looking local

With low unemployment in Iowa and service-industry turnover in general, keeping employees around can be tough. Just like for their customers, Main Street aims to keep its people happy and engaged. Cross-training helps, as does a solid benefit offering. The biggest health insurance must-haves for their employees? Good quality insurance, reasonable pricing, and acceptance at most places. "We’re an Iowa business," Ryan says, "and it made sense to go with an Iowa business, too." With Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Main Street is able to check off all three.

Running a small business boils down to putting a great team in place and keeping customers coming back. "There are a million moving parts," Ryan says of running two shops. "It’s been challenging, but at the end of the day, we want to show our employees — and customers — that we really care."

Looking for coverage for your small business?

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About the series

We wanted to learn more about why some of our long-time small business customers continue to choose Wellmark for their health coverage in their own words. Trust, shared values, experience, longevity and understanding continually came to the forefront.

Thank you to Main Street Cafe & Bakery for sharing their story with us.