Under this farmers market tent, the mom sits back in a lawn chair and works the cash register. She chats with customers and waves at dogs that come and go. The brother makes sure the engine is on, so the panini makers are properly fueled. And the dad is around here somewhere filling in where needed. During their first day at the Freight House Farmers Market, the panini pop-up shop is a family affair.

But make no mistake: 16-year-old Mary Baril is in charge.

As Baril, who lives in Blue Grass, finishes up her sophomore year at Davenport West High School, she’s kickstarting her own business — called Mixtape Panini.

She was nervous on Saturday, the outdoor market’s grand opening day and the official unveiling of her panini menu.

“I was thinking, ‘What if no one orders them and what if nothing goes the way I wanted to,'” she said, while flipping open her panini maker. “I was doubting it all week.”

She laid out all of her ingredients — eggs, three types of cheeses, bread with and without gluten, plus meats and vegetables — on the table early and waited for the first wave of early-morning market-goers.

Every time a customer passed along a rave review, she let out a big smile. 

Baril has about 10 concoctions of grilled sandwiches on her menu, including options called Early Moe and Hamma Time. Most of them are funny names she brainstormed with her friends at school. Same goes with the business title.

“I heard somebody in class talking about mixtapes and I thought it would work for the business,” Baril said. “I went home that night, and I was just like, 'let’s do it.'"

But not everyone hopped on the idea as quickly as she would’ve liked.

“At first, my parents and friends were just like ‘that’s cute,'" she said. “They didn’t take me seriously, because it was like who would want to really start a sandwich business?”

For Baril, the panini passion had already took root.

She asked for a panini maker for Christmas and had been playing around with the grilled sandwiches since then. Her favorite combination so far is roast beef, provolone and avocado. She likes any sandwich with avocado in the mix. 

“Avocado is my life,” she said. “It’s so good on everything.”

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Her mom, Joan, credits the interest to “an endless number of trips to Panera.”

“She’s really gotten into the creativity of it,” Joan Baril said. “It’s really fun for her and we eventually got on board. Even if we don’t make any money, it’s a great experience for her.

At the heart of the experience is the farmers market, where the Baril family has spent many mornings over the past years as customers. 

"I love the environment, seeing all of the dogs and the people who are extra friendly," Joan said. "It's like another world at the farmers market."

And they're looking forward to seeing it all from the other side of the tent. 

"It seems weird to have my own business all the sudden," Baril said. "But I really like it and it's fun to be in charge." 


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).