Picket Fence closing in February after 24 years

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After 24 years in business, Tom and Jane Augustyn look forward to spending more time with their grandchildren and pursuing their pastimes. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Entrepreneurs Tom and Jane Augustyn began their journey as small business owners in 1998. The ambitious couple set up shop at 531 South River Park Drive, naming their new venture Clayton Ridge Farm Meat Market & Gift Shop. 

"The business was a natural extension of our farmer's market produce stand," explained Jane. "Moving into a brick and mortar space allowed us to have a full-time presence in the market to sell our naturally-raised meats and veggies. It also allowed us to involve our kids in the business."

Growing the business

Eventually the Augustyns added gift items that complimented the farm products. They purchased a large grill that allowed the couple to smoke meats, developing their own flavor of BBQ'd pork and beef. The big grill also helped the Augustyns serve large amounts of freshly-grilled brats, burgers, chops and steaks for large events like RAGBRAI, GermanFest, July Fourth, etc. Through the years, soup, salads, bratwurst and BBQ pork were mainstays on the menu, featuring BBQ'd ribs on Saturday. Of course no meal was complete without the addition of a slice of one of Jane's freshly baked pies, voted "Best Pie East and West of the Mississippi River." Gourmet style caramel corn was eventually added to the offerings. "We expanded the café a year later and added catering shortly after that," Tom commented. "At that time we made the decision to focus our time and energy on the café and catering business."

"We have always tried to offer products and services that were in line with what the customers wanted, and have always focused on high-quality, fresh-from-the-farm, and flavorful offerings," Jane added. 

The Augustyns' work ethic was admirable. "We have always felt that in a small business, it must be owner-operated and the owner must be present to interact with customers," Jane commented. "We missed out on a lot of weekend time with friends and family. As my dad always said, 'You have to make hay when the sun shines!'" 

Next chapter

Jane is looking forward to retirement and Tom is ready to embrace a slower pace, as he will remain employed with Guttenberg's People's State Bank as a loan officer. "I am looking forward to devoting more time to my flower beds and being a grandmother," she said with a smile. 

"We both like to travel, camp, hike and explore bike trails. It will be nice to have weekends free," Tom told The Press. "Jane may also compose a cookbook, so some of the Picket Fence Café favorites can live on."

In gratitude

The Augustyns would like to find someone who wants to continue some or all of their business. "With us leaving the business, this opens opportunities for entrepreneurial-minded individuals," they commented. 

"Over the last 25 years, we have put together several related but different enterprises that all contribute to our bottom-line," Tom pointed out. "The café is complimentary to the catering enterprise, our big grill is a unique feature of our catering, and the caramel corn enterprise works well with the café enterprise. The next owner of the store at 531 S. River Park Drive may only focus on a small portion of what we offered, but we hope the community will patronize them as they have for us."

"We are incredibly grateful to our customers, our community, and the absolute best team we could imagine," said Jane with gratitude. "If we are completely honest, we weren’t sure we would be successful when we first started, but we were willing to give it a go. We had no idea that The Picket Fence Café would do so well, and that our costumers would embrace and love this little shop as they  have. We are incredibly proud of the business we have created, grateful for all that we have learned along the way and better for the relationships we have built with our employees, vendors, customers and one another."

Business as usual

Picket Fence Café will remain open and continue to operate as usual until mid-February. 

"In the meantime, let’s make the next few months the best yet!" they encouraged. "At this point, we intend to be open through Valentine’s Day unless something unforeseen develops. Our store will continue to operate as usual with lots of new arrivals and what we hope to be one of our best holiday seasons. We intend to honor all our booked catering jobs, but won’t take any new catering for dates after Feb. 14, 2023.  You can look forward to some additional promotions later in the winter as we prepare ourselves for closing. Stay tuned for additional details as we get closer to that point in time. And, we wanted to make sure everyone has an opportunity to use those prized Picket Fence Café gift certificates!"

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