Whether it’s a strong work ethic or devotion to community, there’s something to be said about Midwestern values. In the small town of Cortland, Nebraska, one woman seized a business opportunity and turned her dream into a retro reality. Today, Paper Moon Pastries is a vintage-inspired coffee shop and bakery that pairs old-fashioned recipes with a splash of small-town charm.
Renovating an old hair salon into a bakery on a budget offered a creative challenge for owner Lindsey Oelling. Before its May 2022 opening, she slowly saved her money and collected donated kitchen supplies and Facebook Marketplace furniture to create a bakery that radiates charm from the 1930s. This allowed Oelling to truly showcase her artistic skills, so she painted a mural across the shop’s interior brick paneling in reference to her favorite movie, “Paper Moon,” which focuses on a father-daughter duo based in the Midwest.
Oelling’s childhood consisted of countless small-town road trips with her dad to discover unique diners. Not only did he teach her how to bake, but his love for history inspired Oelling’s passion for all things vintage—hence the aesthetic and “Paper Moon” personality behind her bakery. More than half of the menu comprises gluten “friendly” items, and she deemed many of the recipes as “old fashioned” to resonate with her grandma’s baking.
On top of running a vintage bakery shop, Oelling also works as a therapist during the week. Previously full time, she cut back her hours to dedicate more time to baking due to the shop’s busy nature—despite being open only once a week. Aside from selling sweet treats, Oelling said one of her main goals was to create a space where people can slow down and reconnect. “There wasn’t a place people could go and meet people,” she said. “As a therapist, I see so many people who need human connection. We’re more connected than ever, but we’re also lonely. My goal was to give the community a place to go and connect.”
Selling out each Saturday and always serving a line out the door, Oelling said sometimes it seems too good to be true. “People can’t believe it’s Cortland,” she said. “But why not? Maybe this is Cortland’s future—to have more fun places to go.”
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