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Clinton family succeeds with Sweetheart Bakery and Homer’s Deli

Real life sweethearts own Sweetheart Bakery and Homer’s Deli in Clinton, Iowa.

Real life sweethearts own Sweetheart Bakery and Homer's Deli in Clinton, Iowa.

"Here, it's one happy family," said Chuck Thornton.

Inside the busy business at 241 Main Avenue,  you'll find the third generation owner.

"When I was younger, my goal was always to be a baker," he said.

Those hands-on skills represent hard work and determination. His grandfather, Charlie Thornton, started it all back in 1950. Chuck learned the ropes from his dad.

"The things that you want in life," Chuck said. "If you want to work for it, you can have everything you want. But you have to work for it. It's not just something that can be handed to you."

Just next door, the lunch line is growing at Homer's Deli.

"I think most people are shocked when they walk in that it's so big," said owner Brenda Thornton.

Chuck's wife, Brenda, opened Homer's Deli 30 years ago as a homage to a local grocer. There's room for more than 100 guests. It features a variety of soups and sandwiches. All of it is served with a smile by the friendly staff of 30.

"I want them to have a quality product and feel like they got their moneys-worth when they walk out the door," Brenda said.

The art of baking really stands out. Everything is made from scratch. Decorators turn complicated subjects into cakes. There's a blend of creativity and cooking. It's a strategy for success that's lasted more than 60 years.

"The smells and scents are of classic bakery," said customer Nancy Donahue.

For customers, it's like stepping back in time. And that's a good thing.

"This is the best bakery I've been to in a long time," said customer Katie Mehrens.

That hard work is represented by the next generation. Four of their five kids are building careers at the businesses.

Derek and Shauna are busy in the bakery. Stephanie is right at home behind the popular counter. And Lindsey takes care of customers at the deli.

"When they want to turn around and do the same thing that you're doing, it makes you feel real good," said Chuck.

After four generations of success, the future smells sweet at Sweetheart Bakery and Homer's Deli. This family-owned business just keeps rising to the top.

It's a mom-and-pop business in every sense of the definition. More than a place to eat, it's a chance to visit friends and make new ones.

"It's a welcoming, friendly feeling to it," said customer Waunita Sullivan.

"Everybody's always happy," added customer Kelsi Sachsenmaier. "It's always busy."

The good old days are still here. That's a promise from Chuck and Brenda.

"98% of owning a family business is wonderful," Brenda concluded. "It's great. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

A family commitment to quality and service that's right at home. It's the Thornton way.

Homer's Deli is open from 8 until 8, Monday through Friday, and from 8-3 on Saturday. Call (563) 242-4105.

Check out more of our area's favorite restaurants - click here.