Rosie's Coffee Bar and Bakery opened Friday in the spacious former home of Kim's Noodles at 4604 Monona Drive.
Owner Coz Skaife, 49, learned to bake 20 years ago at the old Ovens of Brittany on State Street and has been working in restaurants for the last 32 years.
Her resume includes a stint as bakery manager and then general manager at Hubbard Avenue Diner & Bakery in Middleton. Her last restaurant job was as lunch hostess at Bunky's on Atwood Avenue.
She calls opening Rosie's her "American dream story."
Skaife used to manage fast food restaurants (McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Hardee's) in Madison and was doing cake decorating for fun on the side.
Her husband's cousin was an accountant for Ovens of Brittany, and when she got married, Skaife made her cake. Ovens of Brittany people who were at the wedding enjoyed her cake, and persuaded her to come to work for them.
Skaife said she took a "humongous pay cut" to become a baker at Ovens, where she started making up her own recipes. She's been doing that ever since. "I never knew I had that skill," she said.
She opened Rosie's after five years of planning and help from the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corp. She also took business classes at night at UW-Madison.
"I was just looking for a bakery space. This is way bigger than I had envisioned," Skaife said. "I think it is just such a beautiful space, and I didn't want to wreck anything about it."
At first she didn't know what to do about the large bar area, but she worked with her coffee supplier, JBC (Johnson Brothers Coffee Roasters), and they helped her turn it into a coffee bar. They also guided her purchase of a state-of-the-art Nuova Simonelli espresso machine.
Skaife emphasizes that she is an "all-scratch baker."
"I don't like to use any cake mix or anything out of a bucket. I like clean ingredients. I use all butter in my baking. A lot of bakeries to make money will cut the dairy out."
Her head baker, Kara Ardery, designed the menu and all of the bread for Rosie's sandwiches and panini is baked fresh.
"I just got lucky and got the best people to work here," Skaife said. "I feel like they are better than me."
Rosie was her mother's name, and Skaife said she took the money her parents left her when they died to start the business.
"I hope to pay it forward somehow. Our mission statement is to leave the world a little sweeter than we found it, because we're a bakery," she said. "I want to be sweet to the customers and sweet to my employees. And we hope to do some sweet things in the community."
Skaife said that she's still not up to full speed on filling her bakery case, which includes her award-winning caramel cheesecake, pies, doughnuts, layer cakes, mousse cakes, croissants, bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies, muffins and scones.
She is particularly proud of the doughnuts she fries each morning in trans-fat free vegetarian oil. "People should ask what their doughnuts are fried in," she said. "I think they would be surprised."
Skaife's staff also makes all of their own glazes for the doughnuts. "They are very different donuts than what's out there," she said.
"I have a greater vision of all of these different flavors, but my pure vision of what I want in the bakery case, it's not there yet."
Skaife is still training two of her bakers, but has hired five cake decorators who work on wedding cakes and other boutique cakes.
"In a few weeks we are going to be able to hit our stride," she said. "I have bigger plans."
Rosie's is open Monday though Friday 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.