In 1991, Ken and Marlene decided to start producing their braided pastries on a large scale in the “basement” of their family home. They created the Butter Braid® brand name for the pastries and named the company Country Maid, Inc. At this time, they began incorporating a filling into the pastries and started selling them frozen so people could bake them whenever they wanted. Ken marketed the pastries through his job selling office equipment. Every time he sold a piece of equipment, he would give his customer a pastry.
Ken and Marlene Banwart were married in 1974. They had 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls, and lived in West Bend, IA where Ken was a farmer. However, when the farming crunch hit, Ken got a part-time job selling office equipment. In 1989, Ken suggested he and Marlene begin selling produce and baked goods at the local farmer’s market. One of those baked goods was a plain, braided pastry; those pastries instantly became a hit. People would be waiting in line when they arrived and began to call and ask them to make more. In the fall of 1990, a week before Christmas, they had 60 calls from people wanting their braided pastries.
Some of the schools Ken would stop at wanted to sell the pastries as a fundraiser. This idea stuck with Ken and would eventually bloom into something great. Toward the end of 1991, Ken quit his sales job and started selling pastries full time. The basement was getting too small for them, so they renovated their two-car garage into a new production area. Within six months, they were delivering to 50 stores and had outgrown the “garage.”
In 1992, they moved their business to a renovated building in West Bend. In 1997, they bought another, larger building, nicknamed the “Hatchery,” for production and storage. In 2002, the decision was made to remove the pastries from the retail market and sell them exclusively through fundraisers. This was done in order to help the company further fulfill its mission of “Helping Others Help Each Other.”
Country Maid Today
Country Maid is still located in the small, farming community of West Bend, IA that Ken and Marlene started it in. The company has done a lot of growing since then. We moved from the Hatchery, built a bigger office space, and added a new production area. We also now have more than 80 full-time employees and distribute our products in over 45 states. Our great customer service and unique problem-solving abilities have allowed us to become leaders in the frozen food manufacturing industry.
Through the years, we have added additional products to our production line. Along with our Danish pastries, we now offer cake rolls, cookie dough, and braided breads. In recent years, we’ve expanded and brought our products into the retail market.
However, many of our products are still only available through local fundraisers, keeping with the tradition started by Ken and Marlene. Our fundraising products are represented by over 75 independent dealerships across the United States. Each dealer services a different territory and carries unique products and flavor line ups. And, by working together, Country Maid and its dealer network have helped thousands of groups, raising over $280 million for local causes.
What Makes us Different
Giving people a way to help each other is so deeply woven into our DNA that in three decades we’ve expanded our reach across the US, distributing our baked goods in grocers nationwide, and into the digital space, developing proprietary fundraising software.
Country Maid Cares
Quite simply, our job is to help. With our commitment to our key values, Country Maid makes it easier for everyday Americans to love their neighbors and for the organizations they love to grow. We also know it’s important that we live our mission, and that’s why we’ve established Country Maid Cares, our own community giving organization.