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2020 BCE prize winner opening brick and mortar bakery

UPDATE: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the bakery's soft opening will be moved to November 21. It is located at 207 S. Central Ave., Lima

By Liz Gordon-Hancock

Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs (BCE) prize recipient Neli Metzger is on the eve of opening up a brick and mortar bakery in Lima.  Metzger won third place in the BCE’s competition back in March, 2020. That prize money allowed her to purchase her industrial mixer to use in her home bakery named Touch of Europe. (See below for upcoming BCE competition plans.)

She started Touch of Europe back in 2017, baking European desserts, pastries and breads from her home. Once she had a thriving home bakery, she wanted to expand her business. 

This is where the BCE came in. Metzger placed in the top three of the BCE’s Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition in 2019-20. “I learned a lot,” says Metzger. The BCE classes “helped me understand how business works. How to plan. How to operate. How to project.” She went on to tie for first in Lima’s Pitchfest in the following year. 

“My name started getting out in the public after these two classes, and business kind of picked up from there, even during COVID,” said Metzger. 

By 2021, Metzger was ready to open her own bakery. She joined the Central District Project in Lima headed by Tracie Sanchez, but COVID and construction delays, among other things, delayed the project until now.

Touch of Europe will open its doors on Tuesday, November 21 at 207 South Central Ave, Lima. Hours are Monday-Friday from 7:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., and Saturday 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Touch of Europe is not your typical bakery. As Metzger describes it “You won’t find chocolate chip cookies or pumpkin pie in my bakery” because neither are European. Touch of Europe focuses on traditional European baked goods, offering a huge variety of desserts, pastries and breads from across Europe. 

Metzger was born and raised in Bulgaria, but has made her home in America for 22 years. Since moving here, she’s dreamed of bringing European desserts to Americans. Think baklava, eclairs, cream puffs, napoleons, artisan breads and so forth.

Locally, she’s well-known for her exquisite cakes, which you can see on her Facebook page. But Metzger didn’t start baking cakes until 2019, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Metzger said “something just clicked in my head” and ideas for flavors and designs started flowing in her head. “This is my therapy and it really works for me.”

An official ribbon cutting will be Saturday, December 16.

The next Ropp Triplett Business Plan competition will start in March 2024. 

The BCE is a nonprofit business incubator serving Allen, Hancock, Hardin, and Putnam counties. “The goal of the BCE is to provide tools and resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs to help them be successful. We also work with business leaders to promote Bluffton, and attract and promote entrepreneurs,” said Jim Enneking, executive director. Enneking became director in December, 2022.

Current board members are Justin King, president; Andrew Marquart, vice president; Gabe Denecker, treasurer; Tammy Whitlow, Lisa Wenger, Jonathan Andreas, Dave Stratton, and Stephanie Larcom. The board is currently looking for two more members; contact Enneking if interested.

Previous prize winners of the BCE competition over the years include Jonah Agner (Greenhorn), Rachel Davis (Studio Silhouette), Courtney Mumaugh (Little Monkey Bakery), and Marlena Ballinger (Dough Hook). 

If you have a business idea, or are a start-up wanting to improve your business model, consider taking part in next year’s Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition. For more information, contact the BCE office at 419-369-2985 or talk to a board member.