I grew up watching Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and first run Brady Bunch on television. Entrepreneurship was a regular premise with dad sitting at his work bench in the basement inventing or Beaver ordering concoctions from the back of comic books to make a fortune. This message urged me to start selling boxes of greeting cards door to door when I was in grade school and lead to present day my running a company of my own–Garden County Cooking.
Part of my business is teaching culinary classes in the Twin Cities and one of my favorite facilities is the Nordic Ware Outlet Store and their cooking demonstration area. I have an appreciation for what Nordic Ware puts on the market and use many of their goods during class. When I tell people I teach at Nordic Ware they ask where it’s located. I offer the details, they think for a moment and say, “Where the Nordic Ware tower is.”
Recently I met with Jennifer Dalquist at the factory headquarters. Jennifer, Brand Manager-Consumer Products, is the granddaughter of Dave and Dotty Dalquist who founded Nordic Ware right here in Minnesota. Jennifer told me that the “famous” tower is a National Historic Landmark. It was the world’s first concrete grain elevator built around 1896. It was filled only once and is now an icon for a family business which is firmly rooted in Minnesota and dedicated to the talents of their employees. Nordic Ware has a seasonal workforce of 375 to 500 employees and they acquire their tool makers, packaging, etc., from local companies that are within 15 miles or less to assure quality materials and construction.
When the name Nordic Ware is mentioned the Bundt pan immediately comes to mind and it has an exciting history. It started back in 1946 when Dave Dalquist, a chemical engineer, took an idea and $500.00 to begin a business venture in the basement of his home with wife Dotty. Their first bakeware products were a rosette Iron, Ebelskiver Pan, Krumkaka Iron, and Platte Panna Pan. Then, in 1948, Dave and Dotty purchased Northland Aluminum Products and began producing bakeware under the Nordic Ware trademark.
The Bundt pan, created in 1950, began as a request from the Hadassah Society (Minneapolis Chapter) to produce a kuglehof pan much like one the society’s president had received from her grandmother in Germany. Dave created one for the Society and a few for Nordic Ware. He used the name, bund pan (Bund means “gathering-thus a bund cake”). When applying for a Trademark it was renamed Bundt pan.
In 1966, Ella Helfrich used a Bundt pan in the 17th Pillsbury Bake-off and won. Following the contest, 200,000 requests came in from people that wanted to own a Bundt pan. “Today there are nearly 60 million Bundt pans in kitchens across America,” Nordic Ware President David Dalquist (Dave and Dotty’s son) said.
Since 2006, November is not only known for Thanksgiving Day in the United States but November 15th is National Bundt Day. For many, like me, this is considered as the green flag that baking for the holiday season has begun.
At present, Nordic Ware has six product lines with two new lines to be announced in 2012. Their Microwave product line offers a unique item—Microwave Egg Boiler–which cooks soft- or hard-boiled eggs and was featured in the New York Times. I’ve tried it and it cooks eggs beautifully…in a microwave, plus it looks like a giant egg.
I believe that success comes from the relationship anyone or any business has with its community and employees. Toward the end of our meeting, Jennifer held up two beautiful tomatoes and shared with me they had been picked from the community gardens that Nordic Ware offers their employees on the company’s property. We’re now considering of a fun class utilizing their community gardens but I can’t think of a better way to break for lunch than to sit in a garden and plug away.
Trekking in my ‘94 Ford Escort or with my Toshiba laptop (missing the “Q” key), the food-speak “local, organic, and self-sustainable” are the emperor’s new clothes. Nordic Ware, celebrating their 65th anniversary, began in a couple’s home basement, purchasing a local business, listening to local customers and neighbors, hiring neighbors, purchasing from local businesses, and extending their quality customer service to consumers and everyone around them that touches the Nordic Ware trademark. That was the meaning I embraced watching Beaver succeed and Bud or Greg make an honest buck. It was local, organic, and self-sustainable like Minnesota, Nordic Ware and apple pie…I mean Bundt cake.
Nordic Ware Factory Store
4925 Highway 7
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Phone: (952) 924-9672
John Michael Lerma is a local chef, author, “lifestyle guru” and Food Network personality. His company Garden County Cooking offers cookbooks, cooking classes, consulting, private/corporate events, and culinary vacations to Tuscany, Italy. He also teaches food writing at The Loft Literary Center and a regular on Twin Cities Live (KSTP Channel 5). www.GardenCountyCooking.com