Downtown without a bakery once again

One of the many would-be customers of the bakery in downtown Princeton looks into the bakery through its locked door the day before Thanksgiving last week.

Something didn’t seem right with the Princeton bakery as the days wore on in the first full week of November.

It turns out things weren’t so good.

The owners had closed the bakery at 516 First St., doing their last baking there on November 3, according to Ron Touchette, a property broker with Solid Rock Companies. It was Touchette who put up his Rock Solid realty sign in the bakery window on November 17.

The bakery, under the proprietorship of Vicki Rhode and her brother George Rhode, was only open about five months.

Indicators that something was not going well with the business began appearing Nov. 5 when the entrance was locked with no sign explaining why. The lights were off, but baked goods were visible through the windows, as if the workers had left all of a sudden.

Vicki Rhode, in a June 14 Union-Eagle story on the opening of the bakery, talked about her lifelong dream of owning a bakery, and of her goal to accomplish that by her age of 50. The Rhodes reopened what had been a vacant bakery – the former Rosenlund Bakery. The property was foreclosed and the title went to the Bank of Elk River, where it remains now, Touchette said.


Missing the bakery

Ever since the Rhodes locked the doors on the bakery, many would-be customers stopped by, trying the locked door to see if it was open.

One of those who stopped by early last week was Roxanne Freese of Milaca.

“It’s sad,” said Freese, who was a longtime customer of all the bakeries housed in the building. She ordered wedding cakes there over the past 20 years for family members, including herself, her mother and Freese’s daughter.

Freese commented that the most recent bakery did not have as many selections when compared to how the bakery was run years ago.

Adam Orton learned for the first time on Nov. 21 that the bakery was closed. Disappointed that he couldn’t buy baked goods there that day, Orton lamented, “It would just be nice to have a bakery in town. I grew up with it.”

There aren’t as many small hometown bakeries around like there once was, Orton continued. The “smells” in those bakeries are just like baking at home, he added.

People who stopped by the closed bakery differed in their opinions on the quality of baked goods in a stand-alone bakery, versus baked goods in stores.

For Orton, the quality is better at a bakery.

Senior citizen Arvin Krause agreed. But bakeries are also up against the convenience of buying multiple items, including baked goods, in a grocery store, Krause added.

Krause predicted that no one will be able to successfully run a stand-alone bakery in Princeton with competition like Coborn’s, and now a Walmart that is set to open early next year. People can even get baked goods at gas stations now, compared to the days when gas stations just sold gas, Krause said.

Despite the convenience of one-stop shopping at many stores now, Krause said he likes a dedicated bakery where he can buy small amounts of buns, especially now that he is alone after his wife died.

The Rhodes did serve coffee and baked goods in the small section on one side of the bakery and George Rhodes had talked about wanting to expand the bakery/coffee shop business within two years, to include a small restaurant.

“It’s a bummer,” said Kit Girtz, another would-be customer who stopped by. “We were going to get doughnuts and celebrate our new house with the kids. We had come here before and tried after school and it was never open (at the times Girtz stopped by).” She said this was soon after the school year had started.”

Solid Rock property broker Touchette and others who talked about the bakery, said that it might have been too much work for Vicki Rhode by autumn, observing that in the end she was doing the work mainly alone.

Financing was a factor, according to Touchette, saying the Rhodes were running the bakery on a “shoe string,” and that he tried to assist by giving them the facility rent free for up to six months. All they had to pay was the utilities, he said.

“I think it’s a great loss,” said Ellen Ostby Bauman. “They had a wonderful product.”

“It’s sad,” said Pat Nelson of Milaca. “The bakery is a good thing for the town.” Nelson recalled with fondness how for quite a few years when the Princeton bakery was named Weisbrod’s, someone would bring baked goods from it to a convenience store in Milaca. “Their stuff is different than what you get at a grocery store,” Nelson added. “It’s homemade, not frozen stuff (that is baked).”

Nelson complimented the Rhodes’ bakery for its breads, especially the Swedish rye.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the high traffic of would-be customers to the closed bakery on Nov. 21 was that it was the day before Thanksgiving.

“I stopped by to get cookies for my kids,” said Christa Herold of Zimmerman. “Today I was going to get some rolls for Thanksgiving.”


Looking ahead

Touchette said that he and the Bank of Elk River will do what they can to assist someone in renting or buying the bakery.

“I am committed to do anything to keep it in the community,” Touchette said. “If someone wants to run the bakery, we’re very, very creative.”

Members of the Rhode family could not be contacted for comment.