I arrived at The Calico Bean Market in historic Cable Car Square just after 9:30 on a Tuesday morning. There was already a crowd inside the small, well-organized store. Minutes later another group walked in… and then another and another. Owner Teri Connely bustled from one customer to the next, greeting them enthusiastically, often by name.
Visitors’ senses come alive as soon as they open the door and cross the threshold. The fragrant aroma of freshly ground peanut butter, coffee, and spices fills the air and with over 1,000 items on the shelves, there’s much to see. The stainless steel shelves are neatly stacked with products that are well marked, colorful, and appealing.
The Calico Bean Market is a one-stop shop for all bakers. Every sprinkle imaginable is available to decorate cookies and cakes. Cookie mixes, extracts, cupcake liners and baking cups, frosting, and baking gadgets are plentiful. It is, in short, a bakers’ paradise. Everything that one could possibly need is right there at your fingertips… including edible glitter!
Popcorn, fruits, nuts, and snack mixes are available and bright colored candies line the shelves. Various coffees, olive oils, jams and jellies, pretzels, salad dressings, salsa, sauces, soup, and dip mixes are well displayed in the front room and around the corner you’ll find every spice known to man and woman. If you can’t find it, it probably doesn’t exist!
Teri was born and raised in the Dubuque area. She graduated from Wahlert High School and Loras College. Prior to opening The Calico Bean Market nine years ago, she spent 20 years as a meat broker. During that time, she also sold handmade goods in a small shop on Bluff Street. Teri transitioned to bulk foods and shortly thereafter The Calico Bean Market was born.
So, what’s the story behind the name? According to Teri, it came from Calico Bean Soup, a soup made from the various items one might find readily available in the pantry. Dried beans and peas, spices, barley, noodles – a variety of things that thrown together in a pot, make a colorful and tasty soup. Couple that with a food store or market, and there you have it: The Calico Bean Market.
Teri purchases some of her products from Amish Mennonite suppliers in Pennsylvania. Other items are purchased from the Frontier Co-op in Cedar Rapids. The coffee comes from Chicago.
Local distributors provide handmade soaps, laundry detergent, and the ever-popular Trappistine caramels. You’ll find Big Timber Maple Syrup on the shelves, a sweet, flavorful syrup from Bankston, IA. Hunny Bunny Honey, from Sweet P Creative, is another local favorite.
Also available is sunflower oil. A healthy alternative to butter and canola oil, sunflower oil has a slightly nutty taste. In 2013, over 50 students from the University of Wisconsin–Platteville and eleven local businesses worked together to establish the Platteville Sunflower Project. Sunflowers were grown, the seeds were harvested, and the oil was cold pressed. Bottled on campus, sale of the organic oil helps support sustainability and renewable energy efforts throughout southwestern Wisconsin.
And for those readers with four-legged furry friends, The Calico Bean Market has something for them, as well! Bogey Tales, made from all natural ingredients, are special dog treats manufactured by clients who attend the Life Training Program at the Hills & Dales Community Center. The treats are named in honor of “Bogey,” a black lab cross who frequented the senior citizens programs with his owner Bob. Sale of the dog treats support the mission of Hills & Dales, which is “dedicated to building meaningful lives for individuals with disabilities by offering services that support the whole person and enhance community inclusion.”
In addition to the many items available at The Calico Bean Market, gift bags and baskets are custom made and available upon request for weddings, holidays, office promotions, and other special occasions. The Calico Bean Market, located at 352 Bluff St. in Cable Car Square, is open seven days a week. Orders can be placed online at www.calicobeanmarket.com and shipped directly to you. Make plans now to visit The Calico Bean Market where there’s something for everyone!