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Ely's Crapola granola business rebrands, prepares to move bakery

Brian and Andrea Strom, owners of Brainstorm Bakery, are moving the Crapola World Headquarters from First Avenue to Sheridan Street in Ely.

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Brainstorm Bakery co-owner Andrea Strom runs a bag of fresh granola through a band sealing Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Strom and her husband, Brian, began Crapola 14 years ago, but as the business expanded beyond granola, the couple launched Brainstorm Bakery. The business is also moving to a larger, more visible location in Ely. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The creators of Crapola granola in Ely are undergoing big changes this year. Brian and Andrea Strom, who started making the cranberry-apple granola mix 14 years ago, have officially rebranded their business as Brainstorm Bakery, and will soon move their operation a few blocks over.

“Although we’ve been working on this for two years, we officially made the name change in July,” Brian Strom said. “It was all supposed to coincide — the new building and the new packaging was supposed to happen together — but nothing goes according to plan.”

The Brainstorm Bakery, which will be at 402 E. Sheridan St., was anticipated to open last spring. But because of construction and supply delays, the Stroms just started the moving process this week. Andrea Strom said they anticipate opening at their new location in October. Until then, they are still operating at their current Crapola World Headquarters at 16 N. First Ave. in Ely.

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Brainstorm Bakery is moving from a Ely side street to 302 E. Sheridan St. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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Brian Strom said the business has been operating as Brainstorm Bakery for their wholesale operations for about a decade now, and they decided to make the name more prominent in their packaging and storefront as they continue to expand their product offerings. The name "Brainstorm" is a play on "Brian" and "Strom."

What started as one flavor of granola has grown to four year-round offerings, plus they bake cookies, scones, muffins, tarts and bread with their granola. They began expanding these baked goods, plus selling coffee and yogurt parfaits, when they moved to their current space five years ago. They also make some seasonal granola mixes. As they look toward the future, Strom said they’re considering other products, like granola bars or hot cereals.

“Crapola became less and less appropriate as an overall brand for all of these things,” Brian Strom said.

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Scones and other items have joined the granola the Stroms have sold for years. As Crapola expanded beyond granola, the couple launched Brainstorm Bakery. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

While, like many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered their storefront for a time, Strom said wholesale and online business set records for the granola company, which has a presence in a couple hundred grocery stores across the Midwest. The Stroms' biggest struggle has been finding workers, so Brian and Andrea were frequently juggling baking and helping their two children with distance learning over the last school year.

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Brian Strom empties a batch of granola from a mixer Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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Their current facility doesn’t have the equipment to make some potential products, like granola bars in large batches, but their new building will be larger and could potentially fit that equipment. The building on Sheridan Street was formerly the Plum Bun Bakery, which closed in April 2020. The Stroms gutted the building and have been repurposing it to fit their needs. Strom said they also purchased the lot next door for future growth like a warehouse, and to use for outdoor seating.

“We’re just setting the foundation for expansion into new packaged goods under the Brainstorm Bakery brand, and yet allowing for other extemporaneous changes to our bakery case,” he said. “So that will allow for us to be creative and on a daily basis, we can come up with something new here, but further solidify our brand and products for retail. It’s been a long road — a long time coming.”

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Brian Strom waits on customer Virginia Garner at Brainstorm Bakery in Ely on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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A bag of Number 2 granola falls from a conveyor belt at Brainstorm Bakery in Ely. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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Andrea and Brian Strom talk to visitors about their business, Brainstorm Bakery, on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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A sign identifies a building at 402 E. Sheridan St. in Ely as the future home of Brainstorm Bakery on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The business is currently at 16 N. First Ave. E. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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