One of the many delectable treats available at Wenday’s Kitchen Boutique in downtown Council Bluffs.

COUNCIL BLUFFS – Great food. Great atmosphere. Great prices. Most restauranteurs would be giddy if locals described their establishments in these terms. But Wenday Cooper isn’t your typical restaurant owner.

The Harlan, Iowa, native and owner of Wenday’s Kitchen Boutique is also interested in helping her customers and staff live prosperous, well balanced, peaceful lives. “The world needs us now,” Cooper said of her official June 29 launch date. “This isn’t my boutique – it’s our boutique, it’s for the community.”

Located at 500 Willow Avenue in the Haymarket Square District close to Council Bluffs City Hall, the business is part café, part coffee shop and part retail outlet. The colorful, cozy interior is the perfect place to meet a friend for lunch from scratch, grab an artisan coffee (she also has the straight up stuff) before heading to work or shop for handmade originals you won’t find at the big box store and retail merchandise for the home.

Cooper is pleased with the initial response to the Parisian aesthetic she’s introduced in the downtown business district. She’s also quick to credit the contributions of her staff, which have a creative hand in many of the shop’s operations.

Ashlie H., a Vodec consumer, works the front of the house with assistance from Vodec job coach Sally Van Doren as needed. “Ashlie’s a jack of all trades – she sets tables, refills drinks, takes away dishes – anything I need help with on the floor,” Cooper said. “She loves people, loves dressing up for work and loves making everything pretty.”

Dustin and Wenday at Wenday’s Kitchen Boutique.

Vodec consumers Jay C. and Dustin M. are the key to everything that happens beyond what the customers see. Working on different shifts, they help Cooper clean, organize, prep food and stay on task. No day is exactly the same, as Cooper decides what she wants to make when she arrives in the morning. “I have a base of supplies, and then I just see what I have and what I feel like making,” she said. “A lot of people bring me fresh herbs, flowers and veggies on a daily basis, so that always factors into what’s on the menu.”

Vodec Supported Employment Supervisor Grace Richardson recalled her initial phone conversation with Cooper about potential employees for the boutique. “Wenday came with great references, and one of the things I picked up right away was that she wasn’t just trying to open a business, she was trying to invest in and develop her community,” Richardson said.

The two discussed Cooper’s vision for her boutique and found a trio of candidates – Jay, Dustin and Ashlie – who were a good fit for the tasks that needed to be done. It’s now five months later, and all three are still on Cooper’s payroll.

“Wenday’s Kitchen Boutique is a perfect example of the ideal employer for people with disabilities,” said Vodec Services Development Director Daryn Richardson. “It’s not because she wants people with disabilities to be successful. Rather, she wants her business to be successful. As a savvy business owner, she seeks people who are the best for her business, regardless of disability.”

The next time you find yourself in downtown Council Bluffs, check out what Cooper and her staff are up to that day. December activities will include a lot of Christmas cookie, candy and dessert making, preparing charcuterie boards for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and putting up a Giving Tree that will allow customers to adopt a child in need for the holiday. “I hope you find a little bit of yourself here, no matter who you are or where you come from,” Cooper said.

To check out the daily food specials, search for Wenday’s Kitchen Boutique on Facebook.

For more information about Vodec’s Supported Employment Program, contact Daryn Richardson at drichardson@vodec.org.

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