Dragonfly Desserts Finds Tasty Niche in Rural Nebraska
About four years ago, I discovered the best cinnamon rolls I had ever tasted.
They came from a quaint little bakery on a corner of Main Street in downtown Alma. The sign on the outside said, “Get Your Sugar High at Dragonfly.”
And, we did!
We purchased those fresh-baked rolls with the perfect amount of cinnamon and sweet- white frosting, and they didn’t last long around my family. I tried to hide the box so I could secretly nibble on them later, but someone else in my family beat me to it.
Now, we purchase at least two boxes of Dragonfly Desserts’ cinnamon rolls (or monkey bread) each time we camp near Alma at Harlan County Reservoir.
Owner Cheryl Brown said she learned to make the rolls through trial and error and a little prayer. In fact, her entire bakery and coffee shop was a learn-as-you-go adventure. What started as a home-based business to make a little extra income on the side while she raised and homeschooled six children has become a regionally-known bakery that has steadily grown since its humble beginnings in 2004.
The Bakery & Coffee Combination
Cheryl started in the bakery business when they lived in Milford right after her last daughter was born. She and her brother served specialty coffee and Cheryl’s baked goods at their new venture, Dragonfly Desserts, Cakery & Coffee House. When Cheryl’s husband’s job brought them to Alma in 2009, she continued her baking business from her home until she found a small downtown Alma location — that little corner shop where I first discovered those decadent cinnamon rolls.
About a year ago, Cheryl learned that the owners of Joe Camera in downtown Alma wanted to sell their coffee business. That location offered Cheryl a chance to return to the coffee and specialty drink business and more space for her growing bakery. (Joseph Torrey still operates the print shop portion of his business at a different location under the name Joe Camera.)
The new location features wood floors, exposed brick walls and comfy mismatched chairs and tables that lure visitors to sit and linger while enjoying a sweet treat and a bold or frothy coffee or espresso. The new location at 717 Main Street has boosted business, and Cheryl said she now sells more treats and drinks in one week than she did in one month at her old location.
“I think people really like it,” Cheryl said. “They like the look and the seating. They can sit down and have coffee and a pastry.”
She draws customers from about a 75-mile radius, including regulars from Minden, Hastings, Kearney and Norton, Kan. Throughout her 14 years in business, her customer list keeps growing as she makes great-tasting, quality baked goods and cakes. She bakes and decorates Pinterest-worthy cakes for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.
Prayer, An Entrepreneurial Spirit & Hard Work
Cheryl’s success as a bakery owner comes with a little prayer, a lot of hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit. She grew up helping her mom operate a café in South Dakota. Her mom bought a second café at age 55 and worked until age 76.
“I always told my mom when I was young to shoot me if I ever wanted to open a restaurant,” Cheryl said.
But, here she is, with a thriving business that closely resembles a restaurant. Cheryl has now enlisted some help from two other full-time employees, including her son, Carter, who is 20, and her friend, Andrea McAleese. Two of her younger children (ages 14 and 16) help at the bakery after school.
She carefully plans her baking load based on seasonal customer expectations, making enough of a variety for her small-town clientele.
She has weathered the ups and downs of operating a small retail business and has made it work now as a single mom.
“Ultimately, I trust in the Lord to provide for me,” Cheryl said. “I can’t rightly say anything about this business without saying that. I feel like it is a miracle – being here in a small town and making that happen.”
Cheryl’s day typically begins at 4:45 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. She arrives early to bake the muffins, scones, cookies and bars, cinnamon rolls and cake pops that are daily staples at Dragonfly. She always has a few gluten-free treat options as well. Cheryl and her staff also prepare breakfast sandwiches and burritos as grab-and-go options for local residents.
On Saturday mornings, guests are treated to homemade biscuits and gravy. And, the growing popularity of her delicious quiche may mean that it could soon become a regular menu option.
And, throughout the day, customers order Dragonfly specialty drinks: Chai Tea Latte, London Fog Tea, Snicker Doodle Joe Freezie, Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie, coffee made from fresh coffee beans from The Mill in Lincoln and a full menu of other combinations of beverages.
If she’s not too busy baking custom orders, Cheryl whips up special treats that customers can purchase by the slice – delicious options like peanut butter cup cheesecake, cookie-dough-filled white cake, Oreo cookies and cream cake and salted caramel cheesecake with blondie chunks, which she adapted from a batch of failed blondies.
“What I love about Facebook is that if we have something special like lemon bars or a special cake by the slice, I will post a photo, and they will come in and get it,” Cheryl said.
A Rural Nebraska Destination
Often times, groups of women or food lovers will venture to Alma just to stop at Dragonfly.
“It has become a destination,” Cheryl said.
While the bakery crowd seems to be busy year round, the business definitely picks up when the summer lake crowds return to Harlan County Reservoir.
“It was so busy last year that we would sometimes sell out by 9 a.m.,” Cheryl said.
This summer, Dragonfly Desserts Coffee House & Bakery may be even busier than usual since it has been listed as a stop on the Nebraska Department of Tourism’s Nebraska Passport program.
Cheryl welcomes the extra visitors as she enjoys the interactions and takes pride in creating special treats for people.
“All of these pastries are homemade and fresh every day,” Cheryl said. “We make them good quality because we want our customers to enjoy good food.”
She encourages customers to order ahead if they know they are coming.
To view more photos of Cheryl’s delicious treats, visit Dragonfly Desserts LLC on Facebook or Instagram. Or stop in and visit Dragonfly at 717 Main Street in Alma.
Dragonfly’s hours are 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information or to call in an order, call Dragonfly Desserts at (402) 641-5189 or email Cheryl at email@example.com.
For more information…
Hours: Tues-Fri, 7:00 am – 5:00 pm; Saturday, 7:00 am – 1:00 pm