Eileen and Bob Brown are closing How Sweet it is Cakes on Wednesday after more than 20 years in business.
“This has been the most difficult and painful decisions of our lives. Words cannot express our pain and sorrow,” Eileen Brown wrote on the How Sweet it is Cakes Facebook page today.
“There are a number of circumstances that have led up to this decision including but not limited to a significant decline in sales since we’ve moved to our new location, increased cost of product and labor, my and my husband’s health as well as numerous factors that we won’t detail here.”
Like many young entrepreneurs creating their own opportunities in Duluth, Amanda Belcher hasn’t had a straightforward career trajectory. She started studying exercise physiology at the College of St. Scholastica. Instead of continuing on to graduate school, she decided to become a professional baker.
The business with the audacity to call itself Duluth’s Best Bread clearly is living up to its name. Not only does it have the best bread, it’s Duluth’s best general bakery according to Perfect Duluth Day’s poll. It took the title of Perfect Bakery with 38 percent of the vote among the final four.
The relative newcomer celebrated its one-year anniversary in September. Brothers Michael and Robert Lillegard, a trained mathematician and a writer, respectively, founded the nontraditional bakery.
Duluth’s Best Bread has limited storefront hours and a subscription service. It features a small menu of products carefully perfected by Michael, such as sourdough bread, croissants, cinnamon rolls and pretzels.
With your help, we’ve compiled a list of swoon-worthy bakeries in the Duluth area.
It’s a highly subjective exercise. It may be that a fruit tart warms your heart or a cake donut pleases your gut. Whatever the case, it’s time to make a show of support for your favorite purveyor of sweet and glutenous treats.
The nominations are in. Now it’s time to vote and have a say. What’s the Perfect Duluth-area bakery?
This is a runoff poll, which means options will be whittled down over time. We started with 14 nominees; it’s now down to the Final Four: Duluth’s Best Bread, Johnson’s Bakery, Lake Superior Bakehouse and Zenith Bread Project.
This poll is now closed. The results were:
Duluth’s Best Bread – 38 percent
Zenith Bread Project – 27 percent
Johnson’s Bakery – 20 percent
Lake Superior Bakehouse – 15 percent
The decline of the corner bakery in modern America could be considered one of the greatest food-related tragedies of our time. An 85 percent decrease in standalone retail bakeries occurred in the United States over the past 40 years, according to Retail Bakers of America.
With this in mind, it seems important to show our local bakeries some love. That’s why our latest poll will decide the perfect Duluth bakery.
Nominate your favorite by commenting on this post. It will be a purely subjective poll, of course. Comparing an old-school institution stocked with traditional sweets like Long Johns and Bismarcks and a newfangled shop specializing in artisan breads and delicate pastries is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but the idea is to choose an overall favorite.
Feel free to nominate bakeries that double as coffee shops and serve food or the supermarket variety, if you’re so inclined.
After much geographical consideration, we’ve determined any bakery within 16 miles of the Aerial Lift Bridge is eligible for nomination. That means establishments in Superior, Hermantown, Proctor and the many bordering townships qualify for nomination, but more distant places like Two Harbors and Cloquet do not.
Once we have a good pool of nominees, the poll will commence.
The majority of corner bakeries have been casualties of the modern demands of life, which prioritize convenience over quality. A pair of Duluth entrepreneurs is turning the corner bakery model on its head with a limited menu of artisan products, a mix of wholesale, retail and subscription sales and just the right amount of wit.
Those with a penchant for pretty fondant will be pleased to know there’s a new boutique-style bakery in Hermantown. Heather Melzark and her fiancé Al Gutierrez opened Harbor City Sweets Bakery and Cakery in late February.
I recently spent a day trying out the role of assistant baker for Duluth’s Best Bread. The amount of time and effort that goes into their scrumptious goodness defies belief. Furthermore, the simple ingredients that go into a traditional sourdough are completely unimpressive. The real feat is accomplished by the wild yeast and lactobacilli that run wild in a symbiotic relationship through Michael Lillegard’s time-tested method of cold fermentation.