5 Questions for Rebecca Opdahl at Opdahl's Donuts
For 5 Questions the week, the Herald goes to Fertile, Minn., to talk to Rebecca Opdahl, owner of Opdahl’s Donuts, at 104 Washington Ave. N.W.
Q: Why did you go into this business?
A: I am Rebecca Opdahl, born and raised in Fertile, Minn. I am married to Ryan Opdahl, and I have three children, ages 16, 13 and 11. We moved back home in 2003 after attending college in St. Paul, Minn., after having lived there for a while.
The very beginnings of Opdahl's Donuts started in the early spring of 2005. Bergeson Nursery of Fertile, which has given away doughnuts and coffee to customers every spring for many years, needed a new doughnut maker. My mother-in-law, Jane Opdahl, saw this as an opportunity to make a little extra money on the side. I came alongside to assist her. I took a break from doughnuts while my kids were very young. People would follow her home after she would deliver the doughnuts out to the nursery so they could buy some for themselves to bring home. Jane started selling doughnuts at the Mentor Farmer's Market in 2009. In May of 2011, she opened the storefront of Opdahl's Donuts. I joined her in October of that year. The business grew slowly but steadily. Our name started to get out there by word of mouth. Customers loved our doughnuts and other people came to see what the talk was all about. In January 2018, I bought the business from Jane and she retired in September of 2019. Who would've ever thought that I would own and operate a bakery? And I love it.
Q: How did you learn to bake?
A: I learned how to bake from my mother growing up. After Opdahl's Donuts opened, Jane and I both tweaked our baking skills. Neither of us had ever worked in a bakery before so we learned by trial and error. The doughnut recipe was Grandma's recipe and some of the recipes were Jane's. We gathered recipes from here and there and found what we thought were good recipes.
Like I tell so many of our new customers, "We aren't your typical bakery." We don't make anything raised or glazed or Bismarck rolls or anything like that. We stick to what "Grandma used to make," just like our slogan says. We make everything from scratch: old-fashioned buttermilk cake doughnuts, cookies, pies, muffins, caramel rolls, scones, breads, quickbreads, etc. We start our recipes with real ingredients, including butter, sugar, flour, eggs, etc. We roll everything by hand with a rolling pin, just like Grandma did, also including pie crusts, white sugar cookies, date-filled cookies and molasses cookies. We don't make everything everyday, but we have daily specials and we will also take orders.
Q: What can you tell us about your customers?
A: Our customers are awesome. They come to us looking for yummy treats made from quality ingredients. They come from all over the area and are from age 2 to 102. So many of our customers just stop in to buy some treats and head back out the door. We also have customers who just want to sit down and have a cup of coffee and visit with a friend or neighbor. Our goal is to have the shop feel like a "farmhouse kitchen,” grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and make yourself at home.
Pie-Day Friday is our busiest day of the week. We rotate the pie options every week. My favorite story about our pie is a lady came in seeming pretty crabby and curt. After she was done eating, she called me over to her table. I asked her what I could do for her, she said: "This is best pie I've had since my mom died 21 years ago!" This is why we do what we do. All our pie crusts are handmade and rolled out one by one, made with lard.
Our biggest sellers for cookies are chocolate chip cookies, monster cookies, date-filled cookies and frosted-molasses cookies. Date-filled cookies are very popular for the fact that they evoke so much nostalgia in our customers. We often hear our customers say, as they are browsing the shelves, "Oh, look! Date-filled cookies! My mom/grandma used to make these! I haven't had them in years!"
Q: What are the biggest challenges you have faced in running your shop?
A: Right now, the biggest challenge is to keep up with the demand for our goodies. We are limited in our space here, but we do as much as we can.
Q: What's in the future for Opdahl's Donuts?
A: I am always dreaming and wondering what the future holds. The one certainty is that we will continue to make and sell quality products to our customers.