Duluth's Best Bread to open second location downtown
The bakery will move into 120 E. Superior St., currently home to Blacklist Brewery, when the brewery moves into its new downtown location in 2022.
For Duluth’s Best Bread, the coronavirus pandemic created a boom that not only increased business, but skyrocketed it to the point where it needs to expand to a second location four times the size of its bakery in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Brothers Robert and Michael Lillegard, owners of Duluth’s Best Bread, have purchased 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth, currently home to Blacklist Brewery. The bakery will move into the space when Blacklist moves to its new location at 206 E. Superior St.
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When will the transition happen? Robert Lillegard said they were originally told to expect to move in by March 2021.
“May at the latest,” he said. “So that’s what we’re sticking with.”
Blacklist Brewery is still completing renovations at its new space, and has not yet been able to set a move-in date for its new location, or for Duluth’s Best Bread to take over.
Despite the nearly yearlong delay, the Lillegards have been getting the ball rolling, ordering machinery for the second location that includes a custom-ordered French oven, an Italian espresso machine and macaron depositor. With the new equipment, the bakery will be able to offer baguettes, sandwich bread and eclairs for the first time.
“It’s a European bakery, right down to the machinery,” Robert Lillegard said.
They wanted a German pretzel machine, but according to Robert, they’re “literally a million dollars, and we don’t have a million dollars.”
The oven at the original Lincoln Park bakery at 2632 W. Third St. was purchased with the building in 2015 and has been on the fritz. Michael spent a couple hours last week hand-turning the oven belt to complete their bakes. The new oven, a $55,000 Bongard Soleo M4, will allow the bakery to make much more bread than is currently possible and send out more subscription boxes.
“I’m so excited for that oven,” Michael Lillegard said. “I’ve always wanted one like that but they’re too expensive. It’s like three times what this one cost, and this one came with the building.”
The Lillegards said the new space won’t need much renovation to prepare it for bakery use. They plan to keep the seating area mostly as-is, allowing for them to offer indoor dining at the cafe.
”We’re going to serve people tall pints of bread,” Robert joked.
The brothers are excited about the second location being downtown. They said downtown has very little indoor seating at coffee shops at the moment.
“I think the day we open, we’ll have as much seating as all of the coffee shops combined downtown right now,” Robert Lillegard said.
Plus, they hope the proximity to the Lakewalk, health care centers and Historic Arts and Theatre District will attract customers who may not have been willing to trek to Lincoln Park for their baked goods. Plus, the garage across the street has free parking for the first hour.
“As disinclined as people are to go downtown, they’re even less inclined to go all the way west, so I think people will come,” Robert said.
The brothers were disappointed to report they will not be keeping the ax-throwing lanes Blacklist is known for, despite their best efforts.
“It would’ve been cool, but insurance probably wouldn’t have liked it,” Michael Lillegard said. “But we could say we have ax-throwing lanes, but there are no axes. And then just have hatchet throwing and splitting maul throwing, or tomahawk throwing.”
Instead, attractions at the bakery besides the food and coffee will include paintings by Duluth artist Rick Kollath depicting a bear baking bread in an oven, and a take on Napoleon Crossing the Alps where he’s holding a baguette, wearing a chef’s hat and has Robert’s face.
When they do open their second location, they’ll likely be more prepared than when the Duluth's Best Bread first opened. Michael, the only baker, strolled into the bakery at 8:57 a.m. for a 9 a.m. shift in 2015 when Duluth’s Best Bread was just getting started, and was greeted by a line down the street that he did not expect. The bakery was entirely sold out by 9:15. Robert spent the rest of the day making deliveries around town while Michel filled orders.
Michael says Robert always overestimates, but Robert thinks they’ll add 20 employees for their second location. Michael thinks they’ll add 10 because the new machinery can streamline many processes. There are currently 10 employees at the Lincoln Park location, plus occasional help from bakers’ kids.
Michael is juggling the opening of the second location with first-time fatherhood to his daughter, Rosie. Robert had a similar experience when opening the original location, and even missed the birth of his daughter, Ruby, because he was at the bank signing paperwork for the building.
Duluth’s Best Bread is conducting a fundraiser through indiegogo.com through December to raise money to pay for the new equipment, although the brothers don’t expect to raise enough for a German pretzel maker.
As of Dec. 20, the fundraiser has gathered more than $16,000 from more than 180 backers. Different amounts of donations will earn backers perks ranging from a T-shirt, to having the oven or a baked good named after them, to a baking lesson with Michael. Every person who gives $5 or more will get their name on the wall in the downtown bakery.
For more information, the fundraiser can be found at indiegogo.com/projects/duluth-s-best-bread-gets-a-second-location#.