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Cookies and kindness: A memory of Johnson's Bakery in Duluth

Last week's News Tribune business section's cover story on Johnson's Bakery's 70th anniversary triggered fond memories from many readers. Among them was Bryan Vollman, a former Duluthian who had long wanted to share his story about the bakery wit...

Johnson’s Bakery
Jennifer Lieble, along with her dog Nachew, leave Johnson’s Bakery on Dec. 30, 2015, after one of their regular stops. (File / News Tribune)
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Last week’s News Tribune business section’s cover story on Johnson’s Bakery’s 70th anniversary triggered fond memories from many readers.
Among them was Bryan Vollman, a former Duluthian who had long wanted to share his story about the bakery with someone. After seeing the article that appeared in the Jan. 4 paper, he decided to share his story with a News Tribune reporter. And with his permission, we are sharing it with readers.
Here it is, in his own words:
“I lived in Duluth’s West End (we never called it Lincoln Park) for 40 years. Back in the early 1980s, the economy was horrible, and jobs were scarce. I was unemployed and struggling to get by. Despite doing anything and everything to earn a buck, I was often going hungry.
“One day, with 15 cents to my name, I figured one of their big oatmeal cookies would be about as filling a ‘meal’ as I could get within walking distance of my $100-a-month apartment (I couldn’t even afford that place). I walked in, asked for a cookie, and started counting out my pennies.
“The woman at the counter said, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ When I admitted that it was, she took a bag and filled it with cookies while saying that they were like having your breakfast oatmeal. I walked out with enough food to keep me going for a couple of days.
“From then on, whenever I could raise the price of a single cookie, I’d go back. The same woman would take my change and put a dozen or so oatmeal cookies in the bag without a word.
“That’s what I lived on until I moved away in search of work. I don’t know the name of the lady who kept me fed. I just know that I’ll always remember her and be grateful.
“I’m living in Minneapolis now and, needless to say, doing much better. But every time I get back up to Duluth, I stop in and buy something at Johnson’s Bakery and think about the kindness she showed me when I was most desperate.”

Related Topics: FOOD
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