CLARKSDALE — The Clarksdale Station Depot on Blues Alley now wafts with the aroma of fresh baked breads, pies and cakes coming from a new business called the Dutch Oven.
“I went by there and ate this morning,” said Ron Hudson, executive director, Clarksdale-Coahoma County Industrial Development Foundation. “It was outstanding, and complements what we are trying to accomplish on Blues Avenue. They have done an outstanding job decorating. From the time you walk in the door, it looks like quality and smells like quality. Everything they do is top quality. We’re really excited about having this business in the depot.”
The business opened in early April in the renovated depot. The owners are Dustin and Julie Shelter, who are part of the Mennonite community of about 60 families in the area. The Mennonites have long been known for old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs home cooking.
Shelter said he and a friend had been talking about opening this type of business for quite a while. Right after Christmas the Shelters floated a trial balloon by starting to bake out of their home, delivering to local homes and businesses.
“That worked well,” Shelter said. “So we decided there was enough interest to start a bakery. A lot of the Mennonite ladies are known for their cooking. Not a lot of them work outside of their homes. The girls start pretty young cooking. It is something we do, and we try to do it well.”
It is the first bakery in the area, and complements the other attractions on Blues Alley such as the Delta Blues Museum located a block away. The Shelters had tourist coming by to check on offerings even before the bakery opened in early April.
“It is unique,” Shelter said. “There is no other bakery around here. It is home baked. Everything is made from scratch. We don’t use any pie fillings or that kind of thing. You can’t get that at very many places anymore. In this place, no one else is doing this except other people doing it out of their homes.”
The fresh baked offerings include French bread, honey whole wheat bread, rye bread, a butter horn roll, and orange cinnamon swirl bread. The cinnamon rolls and pies are two of the favorites with customers. Cakes are another popular offering.
In addition to the baked goods, the business also sells sandwiches primarily served on the butter horn rolls. The types of sandwiches include club, reuben, chicken salad, roast beef and panini-a sandwich with sliced ham, provolone cheese, pesto sauce, and red bell pepper served on Italian bread. Soups and salads are also available for lunch.
The Shelter’s chose the name Dutch Oven to advertise the style of Dutch-German ethnic cooking that the fare represents.
Most of the local Mennonites are farmers, including some who have branched out into catfish farming, and the community is known for being conservative and hard working. The women wear dresses and scarfs known as prayer shawls. The men wear beards. Because the community is different from the norm, there are sometimes misconceptions about it.
“People know we don’t have radio and television, and ask if we have newspapers and electricity, and we do,” Shelter said.
The new business makes an asset out of the old-fashioned way of doing things from scratch with quality fresh ingredients.
“It takes a little longer,” Shelter said. “It takes more time to do it that way, but we decided we wanted to focus on quality instead of quantity. We could get pie fillings and turn out a lot more quantity. But to me they don’t taste the same. And I want it to be right.”
The Dutch Oven is located at the depot at 100 Blues Ave. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 7 to 3 p.m.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org.