More than a few people were left in the unfortunate position Shanda Cool and her husband Patrick Sheldon found themselves in after the Souris River flood last year - both their business and home were flooded.
In one of the toughest decisions they've ever had to make, the couple decided to give up rebuilding their home to instead focus on rebuilding their business. A year later, that's looking like a pretty sweet decision.
Sweet & Flour Patisserie opened in early June and is a traditional European-inspired pastry cafe that blends in some hometown Midwestern flavor.
"We like to serve a lot of traditional European pastries in addition to some American and Midwestern favorites. So we kind of incorporate from both worlds," Cool said. "We're very interested in European culture but Patrick and I are from here, we're from the Midwest and we love all things Midwest, as well."
Cool said one of their most popular desserts is a creme brulee with raspberries and rhubarb, which combines French and Midwest flavors. The scones, which are soft and flaky, not hard like many people are used to, are also popular.
Bostock, a brioche toast brushed with an orange scented rum syrup, covered in almond cream and various fruit jams, is another favorite.
"It's like a French bear claw," Cool said.
"We've found that with opening a French-inspired bakery, it gives us the opportunity to introduce people to other items that they typically aren't going to come across," Sheldon added. "Like the bostock. So that's opened a lot of opportunities for different menu items."
Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with homemade soups always offered and always popular. There are also several hot and cold sandwich selections along with a variety of salads.
"And the menu is ever changing," Cool said. "We like to be seasonal and we like to go with the best ingredients at the time that are available to us, which is sort of limited because we're in Minot."
Everything at Sweet & Flour is made in-house, from the breads right down to the syrups in the coffees.
"So we don't buy processed sugar syrups. We make all of our own infusions for the coffee flavors," Cool said. "We make all of our own salad dressings, things like that. Everything is homemade."
On Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 p.m. to midnight they have plated desserts, along with beer and wine.
Cool said they serve a special blend of coffee from San Francisco that customers rave about, and they are looking at opening earlier in the coming months to better serve the coffee crowd on their way to work.
"We've had such a great response for our coffee that we want to open up early so those people can come in and get coffee," Cool said.
Something else new they are trying is live music. The Rough Riders, a bluegrass band, played at Sweet & Four on Friday, and Cool said they would like to offer more live music in the future.
Sweet & Flour also does catering for private events. They will go on site when scheduling allows, and also offer a private room at the cafe that seats up to 22 and can be rented out for private events and meetings. Cool mentioned the entire cafe can also be rented out for private parties.
"We've done fancy black tie style-dinners, we've done informal gatherings with just small bites or dessert parties. We do all kinds of things," Cool said. "We do go off premises when time allows, as well."
"Those catered events, they can request anything from items on our menu to specific, one-off items (not on the menu)," Sheldon added.
Cool is a classically-trained pastry chef, and attended Le Cordon Bleu, the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She is a certified pastry chef with a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu as well as one from France.
Like many chefs, Cool got her start baking at home. Baking is in her family, and she grew up learning the ins and outs of the kitchen from her mom and grandma.
Cool was a loan officer for many years, and while she enjoyed that job she always wanted her own business and always loved baking. One day those two ideas finally became intertwined and she took the opportunity to go to school in San Francisco with her husband, who was going to grad school there for his Master of Fine Arts.
"I was teaching at Minot State University at the time. I was teaching graphic design and photography and working towards my masters," Sheldon said. "And we found that my school and Shanda's school were pretty much down the street from each other in San Francisco."
To gain more experience after graduating, Cool helped a friend open a shop on Union Street in San Francisco called American Cupcake, which is still doing well today. She also worked in a high-end restaurant called Farm, at the Carneros Inn, which is a five-star resort in between the Napa and Sanoma in California.
After getting all that training and experience, Cool was planning to open last September, but the flood changed that. In an unfortunate double whammy, her business, which had a completely renovated kitchen at that point, and her home were both flooded.
"We didn't know what we were going to do after it flooded, if we were going to actually keep going, because we lost our home, as well. It was a tough decision to make. Our home was not repairable and the Brick building was," Cool said. "It helped make the decision, but it was a tough decision because we loved our home. We had our home for six years and we had completely renovated the whole thing. It was an older home and it was very historic and it was very special to us."
The couple ended up building a home with Sheldon's parents, who were also flooded. Although it's one house, there are two separate residences, and Cool said it's kind of like living in a condo.
It might have been a difficult road to travel, but Sheldon and Cool feel fortunate they have a nice place to live and a thriving business. Sheldon even recently resigned from Minot State University to work at Sweet & Flour full-time. He will be doing some marketing, as well as work in the cafe and kitchen.
Cool said the response from her customers has been overwhelmingly positive, with word of mouth and the Sweet and Flour Facebook page attracting customers. Sheldon said more than a few people have mentioned that when they come in, the cafe has a larger metropolitan feel.
"They feel like they're in Minneapolis or they feel like they're in Chicago," Sheldon said.
"Which is complimentary, I think," Cool added.
She said the long hours spent in the kitchen have been more than worth it because of all the support from her customers. While the cafe might have a big-city feel, the customers definitely give it a small-town warmth.
"I get emails every day from customers, which I think is just so sweet, just saying I think that was the best cheesecake I've ever had or I love your bread, it's so delicious," Cool said. "You know, that's the kind of thing that when you get up at four every morning and sometimes when it's a Friday night and you have to keep working until you close at 1 a.m. ... it keeps you going when you hear that feedback from the customers. I love our customers, they're wonderful."