By Candice Wagener
For residents of Middleton, Clasen’s is a household name. The bakery has been a stronghold in the community since 1959. Lured by the “American dream,” brothers Ralph and Ernst came over from Cologne, Germany and opened the business. Now on their second generation, the Clasen family continues traditions while keeping things fresh with new treats. Clasen’s is your one-stop shop for nibbles that are sweet, savory and delectable. Walking into the vast, 15,000-square-foot space, you will be overwhelmed by the delightful aromas and sights.
The Clasen’s store front end is rich with chocolates, truffles and cupcakes. A refrigerator case holds cakes and tortes. Dozens of varieties of bread loaves, including specialty ryes and artisan sourdough, fill the back wall. Tables are brimming with buns, quiche, coffee cake, Kringle and cookies, all made from scratch on the premises.
If you haven’t seen it promoted on social yet, Clasen’s is teaming up with neighbor Capital Brewery to develop a new line of breads, pretzels and buns using spent grains.
While Ralph still works at age 80, his daughter Michelle officially owns the business. Growing up in the bakery environment, Michelle has always loved the craft, even studying at the same pastry school in Germany as her dad. She calls her position “the perfect combo of structure and creativity,” because she continues to remain active in production while still attending to business tasks. The bakery roots run deep; two of Michelle’s children are active pastry chefs and she is hopeful they will carry on the legacy.
The Clasen family has made their mark by offering Wisconsinites, many of whom likely have their own personal familial ties with Germany and surrounding countries, a variety of authentic European products whose exceptional home-baked quality is evident in every bite, taking many of us back to Grandma’s kitchen. Everything is made to meet the highest standards of quality and follows a creed Michelle learned from her pastry teacher: “If it’s not good enough for your mother to eat, you don’t put it out for sale.”