January 24, 2023 at 4:05 p.m.
Ritter, Duclos thrilled to be serving food for Sacred Heart wine and dine, the community
Life is delightful for D’Lish Coffee and Catering owners Shannon Ritter and Katelyn Duclos.
They are excited to be preparing chicken and dressing and roast beef entrees, plus a salad bar, for the Saturday, Jan. 28, Sacred Heart Catholic School Wine and Dine Dinner and Auction at the Freeport Community Center in Freeport. They are just plain happy to be serving a community they call home and love.
“We kept the menu more of a Stearns County thing,” Duclos said about the Jan. 28 fundraiser for the Catholic school.
This year’s school fundraiser has a new name and new caterers, D’Lish Coffee and Catering, a Freeport business that opened July 9, 2022. Their silent and live auction features a variety of items made by students and donated by community members and businesses, including a fishing excursion with 1987 World Series champion Juan Berenguer and Timmy Linn, of Freeport.
D’Lish may be new to the area, but the owners are familiar faces, who have experience working in the food industry.
In fact, Duclos, 30, said they both worked at Charlie’s Café in Freeport, even together for a time.
“The Heidgerkens (who owned Charlie’s back then) are my cousins, so I was pretty young when I started working there,” Ritter, 35, said.
Plus, they have known each other for close to 13 years. Ritter, the daughter of Ron and Elaine Ritter of Freeport, is a 2005 Melrose High School graduate, and Duclos, the daughter of Jeff and Deb Duclos, is a 2011 Melrose graduate.
Ritter said starting their own coffee and catering business was a dream come true for her, “plus I’m addicted to coffee.” It didn’t take much coaxing to convince Duclos that they should open a coffee and catering business.
“We both decided it was the right time in our lives,” Duclos said. “We needed to start thinking about us and deciding what was best for our future, and the path took us to opening our own place.”
The pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly, she added.
Early spring 2023, Michele Schulzetenberg, former owner of Freeport Floral, which had been in the building, announced on Facebook she was retiring, and Duclos reached out to her on social media.
“Michele said she thought of Shannon and me right away, thinking it was the right building for us,” Duclos said.
The duo went for it. Before long, they had a building, financing and a plan.
And they had a name.
“I was pondering names for one week and suddenly D’lish came to me, and I said, ‘Yes, let’s do that,’” Ritter said.
The front part of the building was remodeled into a specialty coffee area, with a commercial kitchen in the back that includes a15-foot hood for venting and two convection ovens, a 6-burner flat top and two ovens, with a deep fryer area. Their walk-in cooler and other storage areas allow them to store food items.
These local girls used local contractors, Ellingson Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Electrical and Roof 1.
“They did a fantastic job,” Duclos said.
She admits it was not a “walk in the park,” working toward a goal of opening by July 9, 2023, in time for the church festival, but they did it.
“There were many moments I wanted to break down, and Shannon said, ‘We gotta keep going,’” Duclos.
They are grateful for the help and support from their families. Their food inspector was also a huge help.
“She simplified everything and walked us through things,” Ritter said.
Their offerings include specialty coffees, with seasonal additions, homemade baked goods by Ritter and a daily lunch special and Saturday breakfast brunch. A showcase features sandwiches and salads and baked goods.
“The coffee part is my responsibility, and the baking and catering is Shannon’s,” Duclos said.
With her business school education and bookkeeping background, Duclos is in charge of the business financials.
Having worked in the food industry for over 20 years, Ritter knew what people wanted when it came time to prepare menus.
“I focused on what people wanted, and we are open to other ideas,” she said.
Duclos said they are “stepping out with gluten free and vegetarian offerings.”
They are excited their catering business is taking off.
“Local businesses will get lunches for their office or out in the field,” Duclos said.
Six months into it, they are thankful for their “very good customer base,” Duclos said.
She loves that every day is a new experience, which often has her meeting new people.
“Just seeing the joy on their faces when they walk in because the building is so beautiful, and it’s a great atmosphere,” she said. “People can just sit and relax.”
Ritter said her favorite part of this whole starting a business experience is knowing she could do it.
“I’ve always been scared of jumping the gun, and, by doing this, I don’t have that fear anymore,” she said.
D’Lish Coffee and Catering is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Ritter is at the business by 3:30 a.m. making fresh baked goods, including pies and muffins.
“I love the morning,” Ritter said.
Duclos arrives around 5 a.m. to set out items for the day, and they have one part-time employee, Abby Heinen.
At 6 a.m., they are ready to welcome repeat and new customers, with hopes that D’Lish is a delight to them.
That is also Duclos and Ritter’s hope for quests who delve into D’Lish’s homemade entrees and salads at Saturday’s wine and dine.