COKATO BAKERY & LUNCH ROOM
The smell of fresh baked goods wafted down the dirt-lined streets of Cokato for blocks around. No question about it, there is almost no more wondrous smell than that of bread just out of the oven. For almost nine decades, that smell emanated from the Cokato Bakery & Lunch Room, at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Second Street. Now, that once grand building stands on the verge of demolition. When it goes, one of the oldest downtown structures will be no more.
The bakery building had its beginnings in a field far removed from bread and ovens. For six years (1894 - 1899), it was the home of the State Bank of Cokato. Before that--according to an 1885 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map--the tenants of the building sold "Drugs & Notions." (An exact date of the construction of the building is not certain.)
Erick Erickson was the first owner of the bakery. He had purchased it in 1902, offering a complete line of baked goods and lunch selections. Later, another bakery opened in town, owned by John Fritze. In 1908, Erickson sold his business to Fritze, who moved his operations to the Broadway Ave. location.
A patron of Fritze's establishment found reasonable prices for the products. Fifteen cents would buy a large piece of pie and a cup of coffee.
Fritze owned the bakery for about fifteen years, finally selling to Carl Lund of St. Paul, in April 1922.
Lund set about to thoroughly modernize the bakery. A November 23, 1922 report in the Cokato Enterprise reported that Lund had "just completed extensive repair and remodeling work on the building at a cost of much money and time." Some of Lund's improvements included a refrigerator buffet featuring porcelain counter tops, and a new linoleum floor.
The Enterprise gushed praised onto Lund, stating "Mr. Lund is to be congratulated upon his progressiveness in equipping and maintaining such a modern bakery in Cokato..." Lund's tenure in Cokato lasted until 1927, when he sold to J. A. Alstad of Fergus Falls.
Alstad's and his family's tenure as owners of the bakery was by all accounts a successful. Wishing to move to California, Alstad sold to Hjamler Swanberg of Buffalo in 1944. Swanberg stayed less than two years, selling out in 1946 to Henry Salmela and Dale Anderson.
Salmela's ownership of the bakery was its longest--twenty five years. Home deliveries by Earl Hayes was a hallmark of Salmela's time at the bakery, or "Henry's Doughnut Shop" as it was known.
In late 1969, Jaako and Maija Koivukangas took over from Salmela, serving as proprietors until 1973, and from 1981 until 1991.
Operating a bakery in a era of large chain stores and increased competition was difficult. A series of short-term owners ran the bakery until its final closure in late 1995.
Now, this once proud anchor of Broadway Avenue's retail district stands ready for the wrecking ball, victim of modern economics and changing society patterns. It is becoming harder and harder to find independent bakeries in communities like Cokato. But we must not forget the contributions of people like the Fritzes, Lunds, Alstads and Salmelas. And for many, that sweet aroma of fresh-baked bread will never go away.
©Cokato Historical Society, 1998