Minnesota’s economy from the bakery window

cold spring cakes.JPGCold Spring Bakery wedding cakes on display

Cold Spring Bakery in Cold Spring, Minn. has been open for over 60 years and Lynn Schurman has worked there for nearly 40 of them. Lynn is the co-owner of the bakery along with her husband and brother-in-law and she was kind enough to take a break from her busy day to tell me how her business if faring these days. Here are three key insights she shared with me:

Weddings are back

Weddings can serve as a pretty good economic indicator (as we’ve looked at before here at MinnEcon) and 2010 was not a great year for weddings.

But business at Cold Stone Bakery is up since October and Lynn attributes some of that to the increased number of wedding cake orders that are coming in.

Experienced bakers are hard to find

Cold Spring Bakery, which has about 60 employees, is having a hard time finding bakers who have been trained in commercial baking. In part, that’s because Minnesota no longer has trade schools producing the qualified graduates Schurman is looking for. Dunwoody as well as technical colleges in Mankato and Duluth all used to have programs, but starting eliminating them about 10 years ago. Television shows like Ace of Cakes may be driving more people to culinary school, but they are trained there to be pastry chefs, not bakers that make 300 pounds of bread at a time.

Their business is half retail and half wholesale, and they have open positions that they have not been able to fill. They are able to do some training on the job, but some positions, like bakers in charge of mixing large batches of dough, require more specialized training. They will have some interns coming in from out-of-state programs this summer and Schurman hopes they’ll develop into the employees that the bakery needs.

Ingredient costs are rising fast

The price of honey and flour have both doubled since last year at this time. Flour has jumped from $12 to $24 per 100 pounds. Sugar has gone up 50 percent since last year and is now nearly $30 per bag. They’ve been able to hold their prices steady up until now but have just started to have to raise prices on some of their products. Cake prices are going up nearly six percent and breads and buns are going up as much as seven percent. “If flour is your main ingredient, you’ve got to do something,” Schurman said.

Schurman said bakers are coming together to challenge the rising sugar prices. She recently signed a petition through “End the Big Sugar Bailout” and the American Bakers Association and the Retail Bakery Association are coming together to lobby Washington on this issue.

Lynn Schurman is a source in our Public Insight Network and we’ll check back with her in a few months to see how her business is doing and if prices are stabilizing. You can tell us about your business here or in the comments.

  • Zebulun

    Many industries appear to be suffering from this lack of trained young people. And the young people looking to learn a useful skill are also suffering. It’s about time we stop and realize that not everyone is interested in a service or high technology career. Some people actually want to make things, grow things, build things, and fix things. And our country will only survive if they are given those opportunities. We can start by taking that $4billion away from the sugar subsidy and investing it in trade schools.