Saturday was Customer Appreciation Day at Rise ’n Roll Bakery and Deli in Middlebury, but the occasion was as much an opportunity for customers to remember how much they appreciate having Rise ’n Roll in their lives.
Misty Berlin brought her three grandchildren to redeem a voucher for a dozen donuts she’d bought as part of a school fundraiser.
She didn’t realize they would all eat for free.
“I guess they get to skip lunch,” Berlin, of Shipshewana, said with a smile.
Berlin wound up buying some ham spread, some sausage loaf and homemade Amish bread. She said her family comes often to Rise ’n Roll Bakery & Deli in Middlebury, but didn’t realize Saturday, May 24, was the bakery/diner’s 13th annual open house. At picnic tables under a tent in the parking lot, the public was invited to enjoy a plate full of samples, including sausage roll, turkey, ham, muenster cheese, strawberry cream pie, strawberry rhubarb pie and, of course, Rise ’n Roll’s signature cinnamon caramel donut: a yeast-raised doughnut topped with caramel icing and coated in cinnamon powdered sugar.
There were two items new added to the sampling lineup this year: Meat lover’s pizza and chocolate-covered peanut crunch.
Inside, people waited in long lines to spend their money on plenty of other treats.
Diane Bowlby and her daughter came from Elkhart.
“It’s free, so that’s no calories, right?” Bowlby said. “I’m surprised it flowed so nice. The people are friendly. Good food. The most crazy remark was, ’Do you want a donut?’ That’s why you come!”
Operations manager Orvin Bontrager, who founded the company on May 26, 2001, said he hosts the event each year as close as possible to that date, a special day in his family. On that date, his uncle, father, brother, nephew and wife were all born, and it’s his wedding anniversary.
“Why not celebrate it?“ Bontrager said. ”Free food. Why not? It’s something they remember and enjoy.“
Bontrager said turnout for the event, which ran from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., seemed especially strong this year.
“We ran out of parking spaces at 9 o’clock. Great weather. People are out and about.”
Larson and Amy Manifold, of Middlebury, also were surprised by the open house.
“I think it’s really nice,“ Amy said. ”We were coming here to eat breakfast and didn’t know we’d eat for free. We think this place is a sensation.“
Perhaps even more surprising, she said, was that their 3-year-old son, Brekken, ate everything on his plate.
Rise ’n Roll marketing director Justin Stoltzfus stood near the door and stayed busy handing out fliers.
“If you take one of everything, you’ll have a plate of free food,” Stoltzfus said. “Its our biggest day of the year. Free food will do that for you.”
It’s been a big year so far for Rise ’n Roll. The company is expanding the production area behind the store and looking to start franchising, after years of declining such offers. Rise ’n Roll had reached an agreement with its first franchisee to open a store in Mishawaka, but that deal is now on hold after one of the partners in the franchise pulled out, Bontrager confirmed, declining to elaborate.