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Lake Country Bakery owner Dan Grandbois laughs as he takes bread from the bakery's oven in the early hours of the morning. He and his wife, Kim, have owned and operated the bakery for 19 years, getting to work at around 12:30 a.m. every morning. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Bakery work means getting up way before the birds

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On a frigid  early morning in January, thick steam can be seen rising from the Lake Country Bakery building on Washington Avenue. The vapor wafts sweet aromas to your nose — doughnuts, bread, cookies — if you venture out that early.

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As most of Detroit Lakes sleeps, Dan and Kim Grandbois rise to make delicious baked goods for their business of 19 years. They report to work at 1 a.m. during the winter, 12:30 a.m. in the summer. Their shift ends sometime in the late morning or early afternoon, depending how busy the bakery is.

“Pretty much the same thing every day. You gotta come early in the morning,” Dan said. “Actually, I like what I do.”

If there is a job Dan doesn’t like doing, it’s over with quickly and he’s on to something else, he said.

“I’ve got a large variety of stuff to do every day,” he said.

The couple agreed, though, that the one thing they’d like is regular daytime hours instead of working overnight.

But the schedule is what it is and their routine has become normal to them.

“A lot of people think ‘cause you get off at noon, you go out and goof off. But we’ve got a pretty well set schedule,” Dan said. “We go to bed at 1 in the afternoon and sleep til 5. Then we get up and go back to bed at 9 and sleep til 12. It’s not all go out and play around.”Since they make all of the items for the bakery every day themselves, vacations had been out of the question until a few years ago. Now, they take a vacation in the spring and shut the bakery down for a couple weeks. The downfall — having to make lots of extras for the businesses that depend on their bread and buns before they leave for vacation.

“There are no sick days,” Kim said. “You just come in and fight through it.”

The division of labor between the married couple is apparent when you walk into the kitchen. Dan makes the bread, rolls and buns, while Kim fries and finishes the daily doughnuts and packs the day’s orders to be delivered.

“I wouldn’t want to make the bread or the buns,” Kim said. “The one time I did make sugar cookies, it was a disaster.”

Summer is the busy time at the bakery. Dan makes about 100 dozen buns during a typical summer day and about 60 dozen in the winter.

“That’s my big business in the summer — buns,” he said. “I do buns for Bleachers, Lakeside, Shorewood Pub, Curley’s, all over the place.”

Kim and Dan would much rather be fishing during the nice summer months, but the business requires them to be at the bakery sometimes for 12 hours or more. And that gets tedious, Dan said.

“In the summer, we’re working 12 hours a day six days a week. You do that for a month, you’re pretty tired. And if you start goofing off and taking extra time, you’re really going to be in trouble.”

Dan started in the bakery business when he was 16 years old, working as a dishwasher in a grocery store in Rochester. The owner would let him eat items from the bakery, a luxury he didn’t get at home with six siblings.

“My mom, when I got home from work for the first month, she didn’t have to cook me supper at all. I’d just gorge,” he said.

He opened his own bakery in Plainview, Minn., and ran that for eight years before being bought out by a grocery store. He then managed that store’s new bakery for four years.

But his career choice wasn’t exactly always what he wanted to do, it was just something he fell into.

In high school, Dan joined a school-to-work program, where he’d learn a trade while on the job during school hours. The school wouldn’t let him work for his father, who managed several apartments.

“By the school was a store that had an opening for a dishwasher in the bakery. So I took that job so it would coincide with my school hours and I just worked from that up to where I am now,” he said. “In March, it’ll be 40 years.”

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