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Ukrainian bakery sets up shop in the heart of Wausau

Just Right: Cakes, Coffee, Gifts opened its doors at the end of last year, already seeing success

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April 1, 2024

WAUSAU – Anastasiia Chystiukhina and Anton Chystiukhin – the owners of Just Right: Cakes, Coffee, Gifts in Wausau – said the recently opened shop was aptly named for being the right fit – a nod to both Ukrainian and British fairy tales.

And though starting a business is plenty of work, the owners said they were up to modifying their dream to make it happen on American soil, instead of their home country of Ukraine.

Dreams of building a cake shop

Chystiukhina and Chystiukhin’s journey to opening up a cake shop, however, was the furthest thing from a fairy tale.

The couple and their son, Mark, are from Kharkiv, a city in northeastern Ukraine, which was targeted by the Russian army in February 2022.

This prompted the family to move to a shelter in Rosishka, near the Romanian border, with hopes of one day being able to return to their native city. 

“But we couldn’t do that because of the continued war and the dangerous situation there,” Anastasiia said. “So, we decided to move to the U.S.”

Fortunately, Anastasiia said her family was accepted into a refugee resettlement program that brought them to the Wausau area Sept. 18, 2022.

Initially, she said, they lived with their host family – which they now consider their second family – before renting an apartment on their own about a year later.

Anastasiia said they considered a variety of employment options, but as former business owners, they kept coming back to the dream of owning a cake shop.

“Even when we lived in the Ukraine, I loved cakes and coffee shops and spent time there,” she said. “It was always my dream to have a cake shop.”

A dream come true

The shop, located at 119 Scott St. in Wausau, became a reality in December 2023.

It features a variety of desserts made with traditional Ukrainian recipes, as well as European desserts and KAVKA, a Ukrainian-owned coffee roasting company located in Maine.

“It’s a good combination of what our parents and grandparents baked as well as a new direction in confectionery – historic and modern,” Anastasiia said. “We wanted to share our flavors and taste in our bakery because it’s different.”

It’s different, she said, in that it isn’t as sweet as what many associate with bakeries in America.

“It tastes delicious, as it is homemade with quality ingredients and original recipes,” she said. “We are proud of that. We want people to meet our food and our traditions. It’s important for us to share and open some new doors for Americans with our bakery items.”

Alongside that, Anton said they have been intentional about the cake shop being a welcoming place to enjoy coffee and bakery and stories. 

“We wanted to create a place where people can come to us, and where we can talk to them and share our life story and they can share their story, too,” he said. “So many people (in the Wausau community) have people in this generation and previous generations who came from European countries, such as Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Our goal is to create space to spend time together.”

Anastasiia said the dessert displays and Ukrainian coffee attract guests who choose to linger and those who grab and go.

And there are plenty to choose from at Just Right – available in both individual slices and full desserts by pre-order.

Some options at the bakery include:

  • Kharkiv honey cake – which features layers of honey-flavored cake coated with a tangy sour-cream frosting and honey cake crumbs
  • Pavlova – a meringue-like dessert
  • French choux profiterole – a light French pastry
  • A layered cake called Heart of Ukraine – which is a soft red chocolate sponge cake filled with strawberry compote
  • Lviv mini-cheesecakes – which feature dried fruit

“These are cakes and desserts you can’t find in Wausau, or even within 50 miles,” Anastasiia said. 

And though the items at Just Right aren’t as sweet as the desserts most Americans are accustomed to, Anton said they have a strong following.

“We were afraid our desserts wouldn’t be sweet enough, but people tell us to keep the recipes like (they are),” he said.

Regulars will find the duo bustling around the shop.

Anastasiia – who can often be seen wearing a series of brightly-colored aprons – welcomes guests, takes orders and processes orders, as well as manages the store’s social media platforms.

Anton said he works on a variety of projects around the store, preparing it for each day, cleaning and interacting with customers.

Current in-shop seating consists of a long bar table or three separate tables – though Anton said there is an opportunity to expand upon that.

“We have shelves for candy bouquets and other goods, but we want to change the space to add more tables,” he said. “When we started, we didn’t know how many people would come.”

Spreading the word

The store hasn’t done any advertising beyond developing its Facebook and Instagram pages. Anastasiia said she regularly updates the accounts, showcasing videos and photos of the latest delectables available in the store.

“That is Anastasiia’s work, and she spends a lot of time on it,” Anton said. “Sometimes, we offer specials for (holidays) on there.”

For example, they capitalized on the Irish spirit in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, promoting a chocolate dessert made with Irish whiskey and cream.

Anastasiia said the store also offered paskas (Ukrainian Easter bread) and some other delicious desserts during the Easter season.

Social media, she said, has helped spread the word, attracting not only the Wausau regulars who pop into the shop but also guests from Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Illinois.

Delivery is available in the area and beyond if the family happens to be traveling there, such as to Stevens Point.

Overall, Anastasiia and Anton said they are happy with the way the community has embraced the business, just as they welcomed their family to the area a few years ago.

“We appreciate everyone supporting us and being kind,” Anton said. “We never saw we would be so popular and so many people would come to us. It was hard when we moved here, but we are happy to be here and to do what we do.”

Just Right: Cakes, Coffee, Gifts in Wausau is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The bakery is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

For more, check out its Facebook or Instagram page.

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