Aroma's Bistro and Coffee Shop in Maple is holding its grand opening this week.
The new restaurant along U.S. Highway 2, formerly the Sundown Café, has been open since February. With the menu in place and a full complement of employees — 12 — the new business is ready for a bump in traffic.
Specialties at Aroma's include a crowd-pleasing French dip, tasty chili and secret recipe caramel pecan rolls. Servers said customers have compared them favorably with a Hinckley, Minn. favorite.
Co-owner Joyce Orlowski and her partner, Dale Martinson, also run the adjoining Maple Ridge convenience store and the nearby mobile home park, Maple Ridge Rentals.
Although she has a day job at Hood Equipment in Iron River, Orlowski was drawn to bring a restaurant back to downtown Maple.
"We're trying to get that community feeling back," she said.
Despite the paperwork and tax code headaches, Orlowski said walking into the restaurant makes her feel happy.
"I love talking to the people," she said. "They come from all over."
Many faces are familiar.
"I've been seeing more classmates here than I did at school," said server Marlene Hood.
As a student at nearby Northwestern High School, Orlowski often stopped by the Sundown café for something to eat. One of the new restaurant's goals is to serve food that kids can afford, like a smaller, more affordably-priced shake that students can pair with a basket of fresh cut French fries.
Orlowski said she and Martinson plan to add more prepared foods and salads to the convenience store's shelves, as well.
The restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Willard Ogren, owner of Security State Bank in Iron River has stopped by Aroma's a number of times, including after a recent Tiger football game.
"It needs to be here," he said Tuesday as he snagged the last plain donut to go. "I think it can be an outlet for the kids coming out of school."
The name for the restaurant references the enticing smells of home-cooking and coffee, which Orlowski called the nectar of the gods.
"When you think of a coffee shop, you think of home, warmth," Orlowski said. "I think every community should have one."
A full menu and information on the grand opening can be found on the Aroma's Bistro Facebook page. People are encouraged to stop in before Saturday to sign up for the restaurant's grand opening giveaways. Participants could win a new ice shack, T-shirts, gift certificates and more.
Park and ride
In addition to bringing the restaurant back to Maple, Aroma's has also become a park and ride stop for residents interested in commuting. A sign on the south side of the parking lot indicates where commuters can drop off their car for the day.
There are nearly a dozen park and ride stops throughout the county. They include spots at the Bennett, Dairyland, Summitt, Superior, Oakland and Cloverland town halls as well as Solon Springs Mercantile, a public parking lot in Lake Nebagamon and a lot adjacent to Highway 53 in Gordon.
"The sites are authorized by property owners," said Dave Conley, 20th District Douglas County supervisor and member of the Energy Committee. "Some are public; some are private. Where the signs are it's OK to park."
The park and ride sites were set up in 2012 and see light to moderate use, according to Conley.
"If we can prevent carbon going into the air and keep money in our picket, it's a win-win," he said of the carpooling sites.