Small town bakeries can help define a town
In communities across the state, the local bakery can be an essential institution. While hometown schools, city halls and local businesses help identify a place, bakeries offer treats and a place to meet.
West of Yankton in Tyndall, population 1,057, customers have been meeting at the Tyndall Bakery since 1905. Today Carol and Ed Radack own the business. Carol said they may be the seventh owner to keep the recipes in production for more than 100 years.
The Radacks have owned the bakery and its recipes for more than 16 years. Before that, Carol spent two decades doing factory work, then realized she wanted to do something new. As she put it, the little bakery was for sale for some time, and so they bought it.
Now they are known for their home made Kolaches, a traditional Czech pastry with sweet dough around a fruit center.
Carol said there's a difference in the products from the Tyndall Bakery versus a large commercial operation. She said owning a bakery requires devotion.
“Well, it’s homemade. You know it’s scratch bakeries and it’s a lot of hours. It’s a lot of hard work and you just don’t find people that are going to be dedicated to that,” said Carol.
The bakery world does not rely heavily on modern technology. One of the biggest breakthroughs was the bread slicer, invented in 1928 by Otto Rohwedder.
Since then, some bakers and communities have stayed committed to small retail institutions.
About an hour east of Tyndall is Centerville, a town with a population of less than 1,000. The bakery there opened in 1946. On a recent morning customers started pulling up at 5:45 a.m.
Many of the customers showed up that early for a better chance at purchasing a Zebra Donut, the specialty of the Zebra King Donuts shop.
Keith and Janine Ellis owned the Royal Bake Shop in Centerville for more than three decades. Earlier this year, they sold the business and recipes to Bryan and Brooke Hille. Then the Hilles, kept with the royal theme and renamed the business Zebra King Donuts, after the big seller.
Brooke Hille said the renowned pastries are made from two doughs sandwiched together, covered in a traditional sugar glaze and topped with Keith Ellis’s signature chocolate glaze.
The Hilles are still getting used to the early morning hours involved with owning a bakery. They've been operating on their own for three months. Previously, Bryan worked a corporate job in Iowa for 30 years. He and Keith Ellis knew each other for years before the sale.
The Hilles said this career change was not a quick and easy decision. Brooke said the community has been supportive of the change but keeping a small-town business going has its challenges.
“They are disappearing at an alarming rate, and it is not an easy thing to maintain,” said Hille. “I mean bakeries, you know, thirty years ago made everything. Breads, cakes, rolls I mean they had everything. But you know things have been cut down and it is hard to compete with corporations.”
While competition in a world defined by dough may be a tough reality, the Centerville community clearly supports its bakery.
In northwestern South Dakota, there’s another small-town bakery with new owners. Ardy’s Bakery has been in Clear Lake for more than four decades. Nicole Roof and her family renovated and reopened the business as Ardy’s Bakery Soup and Sandwich Shop last July.
Roof said it's been a change for her family after a move from New York state. They are working with the previous owner to keep the recipes alive for the community.
According to Nicole, customers are excited to see the bakery reopen. However, she and her family are learning about some new treats.
“People like the caramel rolls around here. It’s something I didn’t even know existed, being in New York I had never heard of them. But here it is a staple at least in this community and so we do our best to make sure there are caramel rolls available every morning,” said Nicole.
Many local bakery operators say they’re in business to provide what their customers desire. These businesses can become a big part of a community. For some bakers, having a business that helps define a place is more than they expected, but lots of hard work and decades of flour and sugar-coated effort can put a town, and its baked goods, on the map.