City Bakery in downtown Fergus Falls closed at the end of 2017 and, so far, no brick and mortar bakery has come to fill in the space the bakery has left behind. While grocery stores like Service Food Market and Walmart have bakeries with cakes, cookies and more, and restaurants like Dairy Queen will make cakes, many customers are turning to home bakers for their baked good needs.
Local baker Holly Petersen, who runs The Sugared Pearl Cakes, started baking as a hobby five years ago with the hope of turning it into a side business. She makes custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other treats as requested.
“I do feel that I’m filling a niche for high-end decorated custom cakes,” she says.
Angela Erickson runs Simply Special Celebrations in Fergus Falls and originally rented a commercial kitchen space with her friend and started a fully licensed online bakery. In 2015, Minnesota passed the Cottage Food Law, allowing for individuals to make and sell non-potentially hazardous foods like baked goods, jams, canned and pickled goods from home without a license. Since then she’s been baking from home including specialty cakes, cookies, cupcakes and gluten friendly options.
Peney Cakes, owned by Jeney Christensen, is unique in that it runs both an online business and a pop-up storefront. Christensen’s bakery, which specializes in cupcakes but also offers other kinds of cakes as well as handles requests for other confections, has a physical location inside the Creative Handmade Goods & Soapwerks building in downtown Fergus Falls where customers can buy single cupcakes on Fridays and Saturdays. She’s also occasionally set up shop at Fergus Brewing Co. and will be at the Otter Cove grand opening.
“I think people really like the experience of going and buying a really fancy cupcake as a special treat. I definitely think I fill that role in the community, of allowing people to be able to come and bring their kids and pick out a really fancy cupcake as a special treat for the day, that’s not something that a lot of small communities get to do,” Christensen says.
Without a storefront to shut down, these “cottage” bakers were able to continue working through the pandemic shutdown. Although Christensen and Erickson noticed an obvious decline in orders for big events, all three bakers say business has stayed consistent or even grown.
Erickson said, “Probably the biggest change to my business during the pandemic is a lot of people weren’t able to have big birthday parties and weddings so I was doing smaller orders just for their immediate family.”
Christensen adapted some of her offerings to make up for the lost business from canceled events like weddings, graduations and big birthday parties, including offering DIY kits for parents to do with children and she says having the pop-up shop helped a lot, too.
“I’ve actually kind of grown throughout the pandemic, only because of this community. I really have to give credit to the Fergus Falls community for that,” Christensen said, nothing especially the support Greater Fergus Falls and other local businesses gave her. “I was still able, through the commitment and the passion of the people who want to see entrepreneurs succeed, I was still able to grow throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”