Uprise employees, owners and family camped out to help community

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 | 2:35 p.m. CST; updated 12:15 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 3, 2011
Hunter Rottinghaus, 9, shows on Wednesday the couch where he slept Tuesday night in the Little Theater at Ragtag Cinema. Rottinghaus' parents stayed the night in an office above the adjacent Uprise Bakery, which they own, while letting Hunter and other employees stay the night in the two movie theaters during the blizzard.

COLUMBIA — On Tuesday, 9-year-old Hunter Rottinghaus was ready to camp out.

“I packed up my Lego set and even told my mom to wash my plaid hoodie sweatshirt so I’d have it to wear,” Hunter said Wednesday. He had stayed overnight at Uprise Bakery, which his family owns.

“It's important that our regular customers can count on us to be open,” said his mother, owner Courtney Rottinghaus. “We’re a place people can come to get out of the cold.”

She, her husband, Ron, their sons Hunter and 6-year-old Luke and a dozen employees stayed at the bakery, 10 Hitt St., to make sure it could open at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Uprise was open during the 2006 storm in which Columbia got 15.3 inches of snow.

“We were packed, and we wanted to be able to serve the people in that way again,” Rottinghaus said. “It took all of us to make it happen.”

Two employees walked to work at 4 a.m. to bake muffins and bread. Bess Kretsinger, a full-time employee who works the front counter, spent Monday night as well as Tuesday night at Uprise.

“This is the only job I can think of where I’d spend one night, let alone two or three,” Kretsinger said.

And she doesn’t know when she’ll be leaving.

“We aren’t forced to be here — we were, like, let's do this," Kretsinger said. “I love my job, and I love the regulars. This is my job, and it’s important to me.”

One of those regulars, Mike Sickels, was impressed but not surprised.

“It’s a marker of how cool this place is,” Sickels said. “It shows how much the employees love this place and that there’s a sense of community. They want to be here.”

The employees had incentives to stay: a good time.

"It was pretty festive," Rottinghaus said. “Two people from the kitchen prepared food for everyone. There were games, movies, music and we had a lovely dinner.”

Hunter enjoyed hanging out with the employees.

“I want to stay here longer,” he said. “I like it here because I have a lot of friends that work here.”

The building is equipped for living, with comfortable couches, movie screens, food, beer and coffee.

“It turned into a little employee party. It was something we did as as group of friends,” Kretsinger said. “We watched a bad '80s movie with Bruce Willis in it.”

Meanwhile, the staff continued to make preparations for the morning. Sickels, a graduate instructor at MU who stops at Uprise four or five times a week,  just assumed the bakery would be open, making the mile walk from his house without even calling first.

“I figured a lot of businesses are closed, but this is a place where employees and customers like to be," he said. "I’m here for more than a sandwich.”

Rottinghaus said they put hospitality, friendliness and generosity first in business.

“People can come and meet and sit and talk,” she said. “We’re not going to kick them out if they don’t buy something.”

The determination to remain open stems from the bread-making process, a 24-hour hands-on project. This process provided the foundation for the community, demanding teamwork, persistence, and an ever presence of the employees.

“With us, the bread never stops,” she said. “It’s really what make us unique.”

Rottinghaus is looking forward to a good night's rest in her own bed. Hunter, to his regret, forgot something important.

“I would like to stay here forever, but I did forget my toothbrush," he said. "It will be nice to brush my teeth."

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Corey Parks February 3, 2011 | 10:25 a.m.

Oh my. I know those are comfy seats to catch a movie in but I would not let me child sleep on those couches without a plastic and cloth germ barrier.

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Louis Schneebaum February 3, 2011 | 11:10 a.m.

@ Corey,

Way to miraculously come up w/ a negative comment for an absurdly charming story!

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