We sat down with Libby Killgore and Cole Biltgen of Oven Maiden who shared their perspective on starting a new bakery in Northwest Indiana, the importance of relationships with other businesses, and their unique menu items.

LOCAL 219: Can you give a quick explanation of what Oven Maiden is and the inspiration behind starting this business?

LIBBY KILLGORE: We do naturally leavened organic sourdough breads. We do other baked goods too but bread is what we specialize in. We started out at farmers markets this year to see if we even had a market here and we were very well received. I’ve been a baker and pastry chef for almost a decade, and I got laid off back in March. We were talking and Cole said “Is this the universe telling you to try your own thing finally?” and I guess so! When we were trying to come up with names we were thinking of edgy things to bring some color to Northwest Indiana and we both love Iron Maiden so we decided on “Oven Maiden” since we operate out of dutch ovens. 

L219: In the back of your mind was it always your goal to own a business or was it something that you decided to try because the opportunity presented itself?

LK: I’ve said for years and years if I could make a living selling bread at farmers markets, that’s what I want to do. I never wanted a storefront just because I have worked for small business restaurants my entire life and I know the headaches that can come along with that. But I have always loved just the vibe of farmers markets and the people that go there so that was always my goal. When we met, I remember I told Cole “If I can make a living selling bread at farmers markets, that’s what I’ll do.”

L219: Can we talk a little about how you came up with your menu and the services you offer?

LK: We haven’t done any events yet and I think it’s because we’re so new. People know that we make bread, towards the end of the season, people were asking if we would be at different events and I could do all of that. We started out with a very rudimentary website, I use a digital scale for a living, Cole works outside, neither of us are tech savvy. We’ve started trying to put together basically a portfolio of everything that we could do.

We try to not cater to any one specific person. All of our bread, if it doesn’t have cheese or meat in it, is vegan, which surprises a lot of people. We change our menu every week for the farmers markets and we’ve continued to change our menu every week as we’ve done ordering. We also go to Windmill Brewing once a week and sell bread there. We try to do half that is vegan and half that has meat and or cheese in it so everyone is satisfied. 

COLE BLITGEN: Coming up with flavors is really just us saying “That sounds good, let’s try it.” We’ve had a few unexpected popular flavors that just kind of came up because we were at the store and thought certain ingredients looked good. 

LK: When we were starting, we wanted to rotate the menu and constantly keep it rotating to just try things people probably haven’t seen all over the place. We have a shishito and queso that people really liked. A shishito is a pepper, one in 10 peppers is jalapeno spicy, they have a really good pepper flavor. The rest of them are just normal peppers. 

CB: That one was crazy popular, everyone liked that one. 

LK: We’ve done salami and pepper bread, we did cherry pecan. You can try cranberry walnut and cinnamon raisin in the store but no one’s doing salami cheddar bread. We just do things that sound good but you probably haven’t found anywhere else. 

L219: What would you say is your most popular item/ something everyone should try?

LK: Plain sourdough is always popular.

CB: Our pretzel loaves are always very popular. 

LK: One of our buddies at the beginning of this season had said that Whole Foods used to sell a pretzel loaf and asked if I could make it so I did. We just started making them and those are always crazy popular. We give the whole loaf a lye bath so it gets the pretzel crust, it’s pretzel dough so it’s a little denser on the inside. We made bagel loaves too that people really liked. We try to keep it familiar enough that it’s not scary but offers things you can’t get at your standard grocery store. 

L219: I know you collaborate with other small businesses, for example, Windmill Brewing through their mini markets, what would you say the relationships you’ve made with other business owners mean to you? What have you learned from these people and this community?

LK: It’s as important as the product we make. That’s like half of why we’ve been successful. We partnered with Windmill Brewing, we work with Smugglers Coffee, the Roaming Wedge, there’s a Be Good Juicery in Valpo that we do pick ups at. All of these doors have opened for different events and collaborations and things like that just because it’s wildly important to support other small businesses. The community of it all is half of it. 

L219: What has been your greatest learning lesson so far?

CB: We spent a lot of time decorating cookies and putting sugar on stuff at the beginning that just didn’t pay off. That’s available, you can get pastries and sweets everywhere, there are far fewer bread bakers in the area. That’s what people come for. 

LK: I think part of why we’re successful is because we have a product that you can’t find everywhere. There really aren’t very many sourdough specific places in the Region. LGBTQ rights and equality is very important to us and we decided very early on that it would be something that we wanted people to know. There have been so many people that have come up to our tent because we have a little flag on our table and say “What do you have? I need to buy something from you for having this.” That was super awesome. 

CB: I think the most important thing that we figured out was putting the time and focus where it ought to be. We were trying to do too much at the beginning and now we focus almost entirely on bread. Time and focus in the right spot helped a lot. 

L219: What do you want to bring to the Region in terms of uniqueness and originality?

LK: We definitely want to keep doing things that people haven’t seen before, or that they don’t get very often. You can find plain sourdough but just getting people to trust us more and more so that when we do something funky they know us well enough to know that it’ll be good. Also making sure everyone knows that we’re a safe space. 

CB: And putting out really good stuff without pretension and remaining accessible. I don’t care if you put a bologna sandwich on the bread, it’s good for anything you want to do. 

LK: It took me a long time to dive into bread specifically because there are so many people that will tell you that their way is the only way and that if you’re not doing it that way it’s wrong. Our way probably won’t work for a lot of other people but we made it work for us and I will own that. I will gladly share any of that information with anyone else because it’s about being accessible and obtainable. 

L219: What are your goals as of right now?

LK: I would like to see us long term partners with some businesses and be able to provide goods and services that they don’t have. 

CB: It’s so much nicer trying to work with other businesses around the same size trying to accomplish the same things. Everyone understands that helping each other only helps you. 

L219: Finally, if people are interested in purchasing your products, how do they get in contact with you?

LK: We have a website,, they can come to Windmill Brewing every Tuesday from 4-8pm, we do a mini-market so we take a slightly paired down version of our farmers market spread there, we do online ordering and you can pick up in Valparaiso at Be Good Juicery on Wednesdays. We open up ordering on our website the Thursday before and then close it on Tuesday morning. You can pick up between noon and 6pm on Wednesdays. All of our ordering is through our website. If it’s something special, you can reach out to us through Instagram or our email.

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