Bakery of the Month – Pine River Bakery

Pine River, Minnesota is a lakes area town of less than 1,000 people, but one step into the Pine River Bakery and you know this small town keeps this bakery busy! The 3 display cases are full of attractively finished products, including decorated cookies, an assortment of decorated cakes, including their signature 4” cakes and even pizza crust. The bread rack offers a selection from white & wheat breads, cranberry walnut to dinner rolls and buns. All this in a bright setting with cheery yellow walls and that great bakery smell. A bakery has been in this location for 60+ years, but Emily and Bob Fulton have only owned it since January 2008 when they purchased what was Al’s Bakery at that time. Unfortunately, the national economy collapsed which had a trickle down affecting Pine River’s grocery store, 2 restaurants, a drugstore, a department store and a used car dealership with service department. Through it all, the Pine River Bakery not only survived, but flourished and now has become a lakes area destination. Thank goodness Bob and Emily had a lot of experience before this adventure! Bob Fulton received his Vietnam War era draft notice in 1965 and enlisted in the Navy. His commissary training included working with the best Navy bakers on each coast. After serving 4 years there and going to business school, he began working for Hy-Vee Food Stores in their bakery department. As bakery manager, he opened 3 new stores for Hy-Vee.

Emily grew up in Ohio, graduated from Iowa State University, and taught middle school home economics for 2 years – NOT her calling! She went to work for Hy-Vee in 1979, and was a bakery manager when they met in January 1982. They were married that fall. They’re always ready for a new adventure and the Pine River Bakery is their 4th business adventure. They owned Lake Country Bakery in Detroit Lakes, MN for 9 years, a bakery that needed a lot of updating. They re-opened the Gaylord Bakery in Gaylord, MN in 1996. Their short stint as restaurant/ice cream shop owners gave them real respect for restaurant owners – Emily calls that business INSANE! In between these adventures they’d work just long enough for someone else to realize they’re definitely best being their own boss. And they’re very glad now to be back in the bakery business!

There are several things that immediately set this bakery apart: * The Pine River Bakery is known for their “Baker’s Dozen Special” – if you buy 12 rolls or donuts, the 13th one is FREE! While most bakeries give a discount for a dozen rolls, when customers get something FREE – they really consider buying a dozen. And they can mix-and-match anyway they like, but of course, the free one is the cheapest one in the box. * All of their products are labeled with prices. Emily uses Printmaster to make easy-to-read signs on her computer. And all of their prices end in 5 or 0 which eliminates counting out a lot of pennies. * They use boxes for their products, ALL labeled with Pine River Bakery address, phone number and store hours on them. (They print their own labels. Sam’s Club sells inexpensive address labels, and their Kodak printer is one of the most economical printers for ink.) They just got stretch bands from the Unger Company to make every box look extra special! (An improvement they credit to attending All Things Baking Expo). * FRESH coffee is so important, and since 2 Keurig brewers came with the bakery, they started using them, as a way to offer a variety of coffees and hot teas. And now they’d NEVER use anything else! It only takes 40 seconds to make the FRESHEST coffee around (it usually takes longer than that to get the customer a roll and pay for the transaction). And they have no lukewarm coffee, no empty airpots and no wasted coffee. Even with ALL their years in baking, Emily and Bob are always looking for new ideas. They feel UMBA and RBA memberships are important, as are conventions. The bakery is on Facebook (Pine River Bakery & Coffee Shop), but they also use Facebook for ideas. Emily regularly uses Hanisch Bakery’s and Merritt’s Bakery’s Facebook pages for inspiration, especially for decorated cookies. Being asked to be “Bakery of the Month” was an honor to these small-town bakers. Pine River is a great vacation area (just 30 miles north of Brainerd, so they invite everyone to stop and visit with them. Pine River Bakery 218-587-2545 215 Barclay Avenue, PO Box 735 Open Tuesday-Saturday 6am-2pm Pine River, MN 56474