Built on four cornerstones of product quality, customer service, cleanliness, and community, The Upper Crust has set out be the best bakery-centered cafe possible in Wauseon.
Owner Toni Britton-Harmon first set out to build the brand of the business four years ago with a simple love of scratch-made baking and family tradition as her guide.
“I like to tell people that I went to the culinary arts school of my mother’s hip,” she said, referring to her fondness of standing on a chair next to her mother in the kitchen as soon as she could walk.
After a career in corporate America spanning over two decades, Britton-Harmon says she lost her passion after the death of her husband in 2008. When she remarried, she felt a new sense calling her back to what she loved, with the encouragement of her loved ones. Thus, The Upper Crust was founded as a reinvention of herself.
“The happiest I ever get is when I cook or bake something, serve it to someone I care about, and see the look on their face. That’s it for me: to have fed somebody’s soul as well as their body,” she said.
After four years of building the brand through wholesale orders, community outreach, and becoming a staple at the local farmer’s market, the physical establishment has drawn a wide support base since its Aug. 6 grand opening.
“We’re very fortunate to have hit a niche that people have been drawn to. It takes people a while to remember you, but we just keep growing, keep adding. Customers will sit and stay because they’re comfortable here, and that means a lot to me,” Britton-Harmon said.
While tailoring to “foodies” like herself, Britton-Harmon says the bakery-centered cafe strives to be welcoming to everyone, from customers who want the creative feast of the week from their “Special Board,” to those regulars who go for “their usual” off the menu.
A part of drawing a wide variety of customers in is the restaurant’s dedication to supporting the other area “little guys”. On each of their tables, customers find a card with a dozen local businesses on the back that the bakery-centered cafe sources their ingredients from, which, according to Britton-Harmon, makes a tasty difference.
“We get a higher quality of product by doing this. It costs us more to do things this way, however, we believe that this translates to better flavor on the plate,” she said.
To fulfill their community cornerstone even further, the business pays their employees a “living wage,” which means they do not accept tips from customers. Instead, if customers are satisfied with their meal, they are invited to donate to the local charity of the month, such as Fulton County Christmas Cheer.
“We’re not just here to make a buck. We’re here as a vehicle of service to our community. Without service, what’s the point? The substance of what we are isn’t just about being a bakery-centered cafe. This needs to be something that outlives me and continues to serve our community,” Britton-Harmon said.
Their team of servers is also expected to help each other out, lend a hand in the kitchen, and stay knowledgeable about what they’re serving.
Tayla Hamilton, an employee for over two years, takes pride in helping bring the scratch-made, locally sourced product to the plate and appreciates that the owner instills a deep sense of community in the team of servers.
“This place means more to me than words could ever express. My heart and soul is here,” she said.
While The Upper Crust is another new business on Fulton Street to feed the community, they encourage others to follow their passions and continue the pattern of a bustling downtown.
“Let’s get this downtown hopping again. Options make a community thrive,” Britton-Harmon stressed.
Although they hope to continue to expand their hours, fanbase, and menu as time marches on, the owner seeks to follow what has brought promising results thus far: keep it simple.
“We’re going to focus on being the very best bakery centered cafe, locally sourced and community driven. It’s all about the people; it’s all about the bite. It’s tradition you can taste,” she said.