Czech Stop: How the West was won

By Molly Packer

Seventeen miles north of Baylor, in West, is a little piece of old-world Europe. Czech Stop, a combination bakery and deli, provides travelers and Central Texas residents alike with authentic Czech kolaches, sandwiches and sweets. Czech Stop is highly successful, serving close to 600 customers on busy days, but things were not always so good.

Czech Stop was established in November 1983 when owner Bill Tolk invested everything he had in the property on which the business now stands.

For the next five years, Tolk worked diligently to keep the store up and running.

“It was a really tough time back then,” Barbara Schissler, Tolk’s first employee, said. “He [Tolk] sold his house in Waco and bought a double-wide mobile home which doubled as his home and office parked behind the store. It was some humble beginnings for sure.”

Numerous small business loans and several oven upgrades later, Czech Stop’s authentic Czech heritage food became popular in Texas and across the nation.

“We’ve been published in Southern Living,” Schissler said. “We’ve also been on national TV when ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ shot footage here for three days.”

Schissler also remembers waiting in lines and hearing people discuss Texas food at LaGuardia Airport in New York and O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

“They say, ‘If you’re going down I-35, make sure to stop at Czech Stop,’” Schissler said. “We are known around the country.”

The bakery has become so popular that it now sells approximately 106 pans of four dozen fruit-flavored kolaches per day, and sells more sausage kolaches each day.

While kolaches are traditional Czech pastries made of sweet dough and filled with fruit and sometimes cream cheese, they may sometimes contain sausage.

“My favorite kolache is usually the sausage,” Robert Castro, a regular customer of Czech Stop, said. “My wife and I used to go to Austin to play in softball tournaments and we would stop by here. It’s really convenient.”

Czech Stop attracts customers traveling across Texas, as the restaurant’s location just off Interstate 35 makes it easy for drivers to see it from the highway.

“I just think we are unique,” Evelyn Cepak, a Czech Stop employee, said. “We have a terrific product and a great location, and we’re open 24 hours, so we can serve that many more people.”

Czech Stop’s online guestbook is full of customer requests for shipments of kolaches they say are authentically delicious.

“My favorite part about working here is that people come in and say that the kolaches are like grandma’s recipe,” Cepak said.

But people needing food shipments from Czech Stop have to wait until temperatures reach below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We do ship but only in the winter when it’s cool because we don’t use dry ice,” Schissler said. “We have a separate department for shipping in the winter. That’s how much we ship.”

After 28 years of business, Czech Stop hopes to remain as popular as ever.

“I personally do not know the hundreds of dozens of items we sell,” Cepak said. “But we eclipse all the other bakeries in town.”