Duluth's Best Bread to open second location
The bakery-cafe in the heart of downtown is also growing its menu with inspiration from the owners' recent travels abroad.
DULUTH — Brothers Michael and Robert Lillegard will return from a trip to Austria, where they gained knowledge of traditional bread making, in spite of a few added inches to their waistbands. They'll arrive home just in time for the official opening of Duluth's Best Bread 's second location, 120 E. Superior St., on Saturday at 6 a.m.
The building in Duluth's Historic Arts and Theater District was most recently home to Blacklist Brewing Co. , which relocated nearby to 206 E. Superior St. in June. Until July 2013, it was also the previous location of the infamous head shop, Last Place on Earth , that was shut down for illegal drug sales.
"It's still a good place to get baked," Robert joked, adding: "We’ll probably do a 'Last Pastry On Earth' to pay homage to the site's history."
The need for a second location of Duluth's Best Bread became apparent during the pandemic shutdowns, Robert said. While restaurants and bars were required to close, the original Duluth's Best Bread at 2632 W. Third St. fared well since it was classified as an essential business, and considered more of a grocer than a restaurant with its retail bread sales.
Although their patrons were "kicked outside" for safety in 2020, Robert said their goods scratched an itch for those craving fancy baked items. So much so that they'd regularly sell out of menu staples like cinnamon rolls in the early morning — much to the dismay of their loyal customers, he said.
"It shows that people do like us and we try to like them, too. You know, give back," Robert said.
In addition to the traditional handmade bread and good-humored owners it has become well-known for, the second location will offer specialty items such as the Crunchy Munchkin, a shortbread cookie with a granola crumble and lemon icing; the Nutella Croissant, also known as Jessquire; and the "It Depends On When Adam Gets Back To Us.” All are named in honor of $1,000 donors supporting the growing business.
Fresh baguettes, Top the Tater sandwich bread, and white sandwich bread will also join the menu. But don't expect gluten-free or keto-friendly options, according to its theme song, " Duluth's Best Bread Is Not a Chemistry Lab, " by Ryan Whyte Maloney, a contestant of the hit television series "The Voice."
Beverage options at the new location include a full line of coffee drinks, like the Duluth Latte made with real maple syrup and cinnamon, and a rotation of brewed coffee from Duluth Coffee Co. or a small family roaster called Parable Coffee.
"People can order in German or French. Also, we have cheat sheets available to help you (and our staff) stumble through it. Have fun! Learn new things! Come up and proudly say, 'Bonjour! Un croissant, s’il vous plait?' (Hello! A croissant, please?) You can even pay in euros (1:1 exchange rate, change is given in dollars)," Robert said.
Other new items inspired by the owners' recent travels may be incorporated into the Duluth's Best Bread subscription boxes, Robert said.
"Expanding a business is super stressful and can cause a lot of family tension. So this time in Austria, it was helpful to just be a normal family for a week again (albeit a family that speaks German and is obsessed with pretzels and cake)," said Robert. "We learn things from these trips that we put into practice. In 2019, we realized lemon croissants are really good (and did them for a subscription box). In 2020, we had pain au chocolat in California and decided to double the amount of chocolate we’re using in our own pain au chocolat."
The original Duluth's Best Bread location in the Lincoln Park neighborhood will continue operating as usual, with the exception of closing this Saturday for the new location's grand opening. The new location's hours are 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Ten new employees have been added to operate the second bakery, with enough indoor seating for 70 people at the cafe.
"We’re growing fast. We went from 10 full-time employees in June to 16 full-time employees in August. I hear a lot about a supposed labor shortage, but we found there are plenty of people who want to work as long as you pay fairly and treat them fairly," Robert said.
Meanwhile, the Lillegard brothers have been busy hauling and installing the new equipment for the expansion, Robert said.
"Michael made me help him carry two Hobart mixers in. It was just the two of us using lifting straps. Each mixer was 800 pounds. Then he asked me if I could help him stack the four new convection ovens. 'They’re lighter,' he said. It turns out they were 350 pounds each. So we’re getting in shape," Robert said.
For the most part, the remodeling of the newest location has been kept to a minimum. Robert's wife, Alicia, epoxied the floors for a week while he juggled a newborn, a preschooler and a first grader.
"We'll stick to making croissants and telling jokes. That's what we're good at," Robert said.