History of

McGlynn Bakeries

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The Early Years 1919-1961

The original retail bakery was on 4th Street and Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. In the 1920s, James T McGlynn (JT) opened a bakery store in the Great Northern Market in downtown at 614 Hennepin Ave. Burt, JT's son began his career in the family business working in his fathers bakery at age 15 as a cleaner. He later filled in for bakers when they were on vacations, drove delivery trucks on wholesale routes and waited on customers at the service counter. In the summer he would sometimes work in the bakery or drive the truck. He had to wake up at 4am and work until 4pm six days per week.


In 1941, JT began using more day and less night hours for his help by adopting a newly developed method of storing products, made up and ready for the ovens, by retarding them in high-humidity refrigeration.


After the war, Burt returned to Minnesota to help run his fathers growing bakery business, which, at the time, had 11 downtown shops and several wholesale routes. But Burt had planned that he would go to college. He'd completed a year of studies before going into the military and wanted to continue toward a degree. He applied to St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota. But there was no room for him because of all the post war military veterans already enrolled.


"I started working at the bakery for my dad and one day I received a call from St. Thomas College, saying, 'We can get you in now. Classes start on Monday," Burt McGlynn recalled.  "My dad said, 'I really need you to help me in the bakery.' He begged me to stay, and I did."


It was the kind of decision that changes a young man's life forever. At the time, Burt McGlynn did not realize how the course of his career would change because of it, but the son never wavered, never looked back. His father needed him. That was all it took.  It was the only thing that really mattered.


JT with his sons Dick and Burt

JT with his sons

With business growing, JT decided his bread was still the best and it was time to challenge anyone to make a better loaf. He published his challenge in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune on November 12, 1950.


Bread Challenge 1950

Home Style Bread Challenge

In 1954, JT had another brainstorm. He envisioned a way to bring bakery goods to the neighborhood. To make that method better serve the housewives, he again did something entirely new he conceived and built a bakery on wheels, named "Trav'l-Bake.


This required much planning, engineering service, time and venture money. Thru the retarding, self-leveling, and shock absorbing devices, hot baked goods right out of the oven in the Trav'l-Bake, are immediately available to house-wives as it travels, bakes and sells (self-service), at curbside all day long.


Banks started closing on Saturday's in the 50's, and fewer people were attracted to downtown. This hurt business, but J. T. tried another progressive move. He established Trav'l Bake in 1954. Trav'l Bake was a renovated bus housing a bakery. Burt McGlynn, J. T.'s son, drove it through the neighborhoods of St. Louis Park (a suburb of Minneapolis) offering curbside service of fresh bakery goods.


Burt McGlynn wore many hats during his more than half-century career in the bakery business. None fit quite as uniquely as the cap he wore as the Trav'I Bake bus driver in 1954. It was then McGlynn Bakeries introduced one of the many clever innovations tried over the years by this Minneapolis family business, all in an effort to accomplish one single-minded purpose: Please the customer.


The Trav'I Bake bus was quite a sight to see in the 1950's, chugging along the streets of the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park and delivering hot donuts and freshly baked bread to local neighborhoods. This bakery-on-wheels was the vision of Burt's father, a man known for his inventive mind and engaging spirit.


"Fresh hot glazed donuts were our biggest seller. They sold for only 10 cents apiece," Burt McGlynn recalls about the Trav'I Bake bus, which drew so much national attention  it was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. "Housewives would come out to buy a loaf of bread. But in some ways, it was kind of scary. A lot of kids would see the bus and come running out into the streets. I was afraid I might hit one of them."


The Ford bus was retrofitted with a propane fueled donut fryer on board, along with an electric oven that had to be kept level. Imagine the disaster if you drove over a pothole while angel food cake was baking in the oven! For about a year, McGlynn drove that bus, bringing donuts, breads, Danish and angel food cake to the suburbs of Minneapolis. The people always knew it was coming once they heard the unmistakable sound of the doorbell chime dinging over a loudspeaker.


Still, not all great experiments translate into big profits, and the Trav'I Bake bus was retired after only a year. Trav'l Bake was featured in many publications including the front page of The Wall Street Journal! However, the effort was not cost efficient and closed within a year... and Burt was thrilled that he did not have to drive "the bus" anymore.


Trav'l Bake
Trav'l Bake Article

JT was always looking for new bakery locations. From 1919 to 1958 there were many locations. Some were wholesale routes where there were no McGlynn employees. Other locations had McGlynn employees in a market or supermarket. And some were a true McGlynn Bakeries location. It has been difficult to track all of these locations, but you can find a list here.


In addition, armed robberies were common in the early years and the bakeries were robbed often. In one case, the same robber hit McGlynn's and a competitor several times in one month. And several locations were damaged or destroyed by fire. None of the fires began in the bakery, but with tight locations and slower fire response, the fires would spread quickly.

Supermarkets were starting to spill into the suburbs of Minneapolis by 1950, when the city was home to about 600,000 people and was larger than Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio or San Diego.


Two factors, in particular, were pinching the retail bakery business. More local supermarkets started carrying baked goods, although on-premise baking was rare. Then banks stated closing on Saturdays, resulting in fewer customers heading to the city on the weekends.


"When the banks closed, there were a lot of reasons people didn't go downtown,"  McGlynn says. "Saturday was a bakery's  biggest day, and we found that our sales were going down. My dad felt like the whole thing was changing. He thought we were going to go broke. I had a different idea."


In 1956, JT was going to close the bakery and he came to Burt and said, "Burt I  think we need to close the bakery." Burt said, "I've got some different  ideas; do you mind if I  buy the business and keep it going?" JT  turned it over to Burt; it was really a struggle early on. JT had 13 retail stores when Burt bought the business from him - eight or so were located in downtown Minneapolis.


Burt McGlynn realized that the expansion of more supermarkets could open the door for someone to supply them with fresh baked goods. "In 1956, I bought the business from my dad. JT was given the title of Honorary Board Chairman. Then, we started going after different  types of business. I figured I could get fresh bakery products into the bigger stores in the suburbs."  Thus, McGlynn Bakeries switched gears from a primary retail focus to more wholesale distribution. It was a struggle to grow sales, open new locations and change the business model. But Burt was still opening new stores like these two:


Miracle Mile - St. Louis Park

New Location in June 1957

Miracle Mile - St. Louis Park

Nicollet Ave Bakery Ad

Nicollet Ave Location Ad November 1957

National Store Wholesale Account

New Wholesale account, October 1958

To make matters worse, negotiations broke down over pay increases and other issues with the bakers union. The contract was due to expire on May 1, 1957. The union began picketing Burt's main plant on Fifth Street on July 23rd, at a time when the business was trying to expand. The bakery was forced to close for a short time.



Bakery Strike

Bakery Strike in July 1957

Caused bakery to close for short time

In 1958, McGlynn Bakeries was still struggling under Burt's leadership and hard work. Then, a competitor, George Emich of Emrich Baking Company approached Burt through his General Manager, about buying McGlynn Bakeries. Emrich Baking serviced mostly restaurants and hotels with bakery goods. This was before McDonald's and fast food, so there used to be many independent restaurants. Emrich had virtually all the wholesale restaurant business throughout the Twin Cities and had just decided to go into retail type bakery products. Emrich Baking believed McGlynn Bakeries would be a good fit.


In November of 1958, Burt sold the business to Emrich Baking Company and went to work for them, remaining as President and General Manager of the McGlynn unit. Even JT remained as honorary Board Chairman of the unit.

Six weeks after the purchase, Burt decided he didn't like working for anyone else.


As usually happens in a buyout, Emrich began making changes to the management of the company in the spring of 1959.


Emrich announces Marsh
Marsh Announcement March 4, 1960

Also in the spring, Emrich decided to move production from the McGlynn Bakeries plant to the Emrich plant at 2603 Bloomington Ave. On March 24, 1959, they auctioned off the remaining equipment.



McGlynn Bakeries Equipment Auction
Auction of McGlynn Bakeries Plant
March 24, 1959

In June of 1959 Emrich first announced they had acquired McGlynn Bakeries the previous November and they had plans to enter the retail bakery field:

Emrich announces entry into retail business

Emrich Baking Co Announced They Acquired McGlynn Bakeries November, 1958
And Announced Plans To Enter Retail Business June, 1959


Soon, more management changes were announced.


Kaeppel June 21, 1959
Kaeppel Announcement June 21, 1959
Emich appoints Donnelly
Donnelly & Hansen Announcements September 18, 1961

A side note - Richard (Rick) Donnelly (above) eventually worked at McGlynn Bakeries in the 1980's on the early development of croissant production. He was an excellent baker and manager. And at the time, his daughter worked for the bakers union.

Ten months after the acquisition, Emrich Baking Co announced they acquired McGlynn Bakeries in an ad:

Emrich annouces merger

Emrich Baking Announces Acquisition in an Ad

September 30, 1959

The Coffee Cake Festival - first Emrich ad after acquisition fully executed.


Bertolette Appointment

Coffee Cake Ad October 7, 1959

In late 1961, Mr. Emrich telephoned Burt and asked where he had been; he hadn't heard from him for a while. By this point, Burt was already contemplating his next move. Shortly thereafter, Burt resigned to begin a new venture. There was a silver lining in Burt's two years at Emrich. One of Burt's accounts was Applebaum's Food Markets. Emrich's did business in a couple of Applebaum stores in St. Paul and Burt had become business friends with the Applebaum's. This was a relationship that would become instrumental to Burt's future success. It was time for Burt to do something new.


Bertolette Appointment

Article from March, 1962.

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