Owner of Woodland Biscuit Company bites into her dream
Laurel Bartmess had lived with the constant sense of "what if" for long enough. She had finally realized that there would never be a perfect time, that taking the leap of faith would always come with risks and a bit of fear.
It was now or maybe never.
Bartmess chose the former option. Earlier this year, she opened the Woodland Biscuit Company restaurant in Woodland, where she specializes in homemade-style meals that feature her made-from-scratch biscuits. For Bartmess, it was a dream realized.
"For the last 14 years, this is what I wanted to do," she said. "It’s just been kind of inside of me. It’s hard and scary, so I think it just took me getting older and really realizing how delicate life is. You start experiencing losses, and you understand life is delicate and every day is a great opportunity. And if you really believe that, you’ve got to just figure it out. Get over being scared and do it."
Bartmess had previously dabbled in the restaurant business, but her career led her to teaching and later to working with seniors at the Elk Meadows Senior Living Community. Always, though, cooking was per passion. She honed her skills in the evenings, when she’d make dinner for her family. She cherished those moments, sitting around the table with her daughters, connecting with them while talking about life or chatting with them about nothing in particular.
She wondered if others sought the same connection — the kind that only sharing a meal together can provide.
"I was just like, ‘Oh my god, this is the best thing — sitting and talking and eating real food,’" she said. "I love how food threads us all together. I love that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stranger or a family member, we kind of center our lives around food. It crosses cultures. I love that, and I think I was missing that in my life."
opening the restaurant, Bartmess has found an answer. She isn’t the only one, it turns out, who sees food as a way to bond with others. People from Woodland and all over Summit County have flocked to Woodland Biscuit Company for the country experience it offers.
"It’s what I felt inside that people would appreciate, and they really do," she said.
The food isn’t the only thing that has a special meaning for customers, however. The building is a staple of Woodland and previously housed a general store and, later, an ice cream shop. Many have come to the restaurant for a side of nostalgia to along with the biscuits.
"I’ve heard so many stories," Bartmess said. "The locals are so happy to see that it’s open. A lot of them grew up with this store and tell me about when they used to come here."
The homestyle menu is befitting of a building that houses so much small-town history. Customers can get biscuits smeared with jelly or drizzled with gravy and topped with sausage, as well as more unique fare, such as the Cholula, which features sausage, eggs, Cholula sauce and mayonnaise.
"I’m not a chef — I’m self-taught and I know how to do biscuits well," she said. "So I feel like if you’re going to do something, pick what you know you can do really well. I’ve always made them every Saturday morning, so that piece of me knew that would be authentic. And on the business side, I knew that you could do a lot with biscuits. And I didn’t think anyone else was offering something like this."
Five months in, diving into her dream has been a surreal experience for Bartmess. Starting her own restaurant has meant uncertainty and risk and anxiety — she often worries about what she will do if it fails — but it has also been exactly what she hoped it would be.
"When I first walked into this place, I was like, ‘This is it. I could spend every day here,’" she said. "And as tiring or tough as the day has been and whatever has happened, I still am happy to come back here the next day. That is really a peaceful feeling."
Woodland Biscuit Company
2734 E. State Road 35, Woodland
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