History of

McGlynn Bakeries

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Failing Our Way To Success

Everyone may think that every venture that McGlynn's pursued turned out to be a major success. This is so far from the truth! What may have set us aside from our competition is that we tried so many ideas that we were just bound to have some success. Here are just some of the ventures and businesses that ran into challenges that could not be overcome. None of these bared much fruit at the time of failure. But all of them taught us lessons that would eventually shine a light on an idea that we could bake into a new idea and success.


Trav'l Bake

This story is told on the Early Years page. Burt despised working on the "bakery bus". He didn't talk about it much in later years, but it appeared to most anyone that it was a lot of difficult work and effort for limited sales. It was attempt to be where the shoppers are, but in reality, it is better off to be where the shoppers expect you to be. The lesson learned was that permanent locations provide customers a way to repeat purchases. Popup sales opportunities do not drive lasting sales. Lesson: This was our first lesson in "stick to the knitting" of grounded, retail sales.


Cookies Cookies Cookies

This was a one-store attempt to grow sales of decorated and unusually large cookies. It was located in the front of the Rosedale Target store. There was a "cookie decorator" onsite and we offered many different styles of cookies. This concept was so short-lived there is no mention in the archives. The bad: Sales were dismal. The good: Cookies showed a small, but distinct market in the celebration business. Lesson: Many years later, DecoPac introduced many decorations that could be used or printed on cookies.


The Fresh Promise

This was a concept store started by the masterminds of The Carlson Companies (TGI Fridays, Radisson Hotels, Country Inn & Suites). Small footprint supermarkets with a focus on only fresh departments (deli, poduce, meat, fish, bakery) were popping up across the nation. This attempt was made with first class effort. Located adjacent to the Miracle Mile shopping center in St. Louis Park, it was a very visible location. The good: It was uncompromising on freshness and quality. The bad: This trend still exists in some urban areas, but shoppers lean towards a full selection of fresh and packaged foods. Lesson: If you dive into a new concept with partners, understand that sometimes you fail with them.


Merry Makings

The popularity of our decorated cake business introduced us to customers that asked if they could purchase our cake decorations from us so they could decorate their own cake at home. We were also aware that home-based cake decorators were a portion of our competition for cake sales. In addition, cooking and baking shows on television were encouraging home bakers to try their hand at cake decorating and candy making. We figured that a convenient retail store could be a perfect solution for the home baker and give us part of that segment we would otherwise be missing. And by adding in-store classes, perhaps we could drive sales even further. The store, Merry Makings, was located in Rosedale shopping center. There was initial interest, but not enough to sustain the expensive rent of a busy mall location. It was closed on May 12, 1981. The bad: We spent a lot of capital to make a beautiful retail store serving a very small portion of the population. The good: We learned quite a bit about home-based cake decorating customers. Lesson: As we began to build our DecoPac business, we always catered to the small, independent bakers when setting pack sizes and minimum orders so we could continue serving this important segment.


Le Petite Gateau

You may know of or remember Mrs. Fields Cookies. Debbi Fields began opening fresh cookie shops across America in malls, airports and high traffic locations. Their success was hard to ignore. Almost nothing is as good as a warm cookie (except a warm croissant). But, we felt that we could make a better fresh cookie - a gourmet cookie. And if we could sell fresh, extreme quality cookies, consumers would prefer ours over all others. We set out to make the very best cookies - way better than we ever sold in the past. We used all butter (no shortening), gourmet chocolate chunks (Lindt chocolate from Switzerland), and only the finest nuts and other ingredients. They were truly fantastic cookies. The name, Le Petite Gateau, means "the little cake" in French. It comes from the accepted beginning of cookies - a small dropping of cake batter baked into a small circle usually consumed by children. We opened several locations in high traffic areas hoping for booming sales - but that never happened. The bad: It was an example of single-product marketing that is very difficult to maintain. The good: These recipes became the basis for a line of frozen cookie doughs introduced by A Taste of France. Lesson: Making the very best product possible always has a market somewhere.


Betsy's Brownies

This story is very similar to Le Petite Gateau. While traveling, Mike McGlynn discovered some gourmet brownies in downtown Boston in the very busy food court of Faneuil Hall. They were rich, flavorful and mouthwatering. There was so little space dedicated to making what looked like incredible sales. Mike began negotiations with the owner of the business and it led to a licensing of the Boston Brownies name and recipes for a location at Riverplace in Minneapolis. For a lot of reasons, the venture did not yield the desired results. Not to be dismayed, we hired an independent consultant to develop our own line of gourmet brownies while having no knowledge of the former relationship. This way, the formulas (recipes) would be ours. Again, these were brownies unlike anything we had ever made. They were heavy, chocolatey, full of flavors like mint and peanut butter and sold for a premium price. We raced to open Besty's Brownies (named after Mike's daughter) locations in St. Louis, Denver, Milwaukee, and New Orleans - all of which were in The Rouse Company festival marketplace developments. Rouse was the developer of the immensely successful Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston. Sales were decent, but the high cost of retail rent and the fluctuations of retail traffic led to the closing of all the stores. The bad: It was an expensive experiment that we all wanted to succeed. The good: These brownies were the best and we knew it. They were later the basis for a line of frozen gourmet brownie batters offered by A Taste of France. Lesson: Making the very best product possible always has a market somewhere (for a second time).


A Taste of France French Bakery & Café

This is briefly described on the A Taste of France page. As part of Applebaum's continuing effort to reinvent the supermarket experience, Burt and Mike were introduced to Michel's Baquette, a small chain of French bakery cafes in Canada. The Applebaum's wanted to have a French bakery café in a store being remodeled in Robbinsdale, MN and they wanted McGlynn's to operate it. And we agreed. We knew that basing a French bakery café on croissants and baguettes made sense to us as bakers. While we knew nothing about the restaurant business, we felt we could hire people that did. And if all this drove bakery sales, what could go wrong? We hired outstanding restaurant employees, found a great baker to show us the secrets to the very best croissants and made the best café we could. This led to opening a second location in the Midway (St. Paul) Applebaum's store and a third, independent location in downtown Minneapolis on 5th and Hennepin (just steps from one of the original McGlynn Bakeries locations in the 1920s). In addition, we introduced croissant sandwiches in bakery location in downtown Minneapolis on the very busy skyway system (Pillsbury Center - now U.S. Bank Plaza). These poplar sandwiches drove sales to new heights for a small independent location. Nonetheless, the cafes never made a profit and were eventually closed. The bad: It was an expensive lesson in realizing the foodservice business is extremely difficult. The good: We made a name for McGlynn's croissants (and to a lesser extent, baguettes). Lesson: We learned about exploding consumer demand for croissants, and experimented with baking the best filled and flavored croissants in Minnesota. This led to our success with A Taste of France.


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