WDAY: The News Leader

Published December 23, 2013, 07:01 PM

Last day of dough at New York Mills bakery

New York Mills, MN (WDAY TV) - In New York Mills, Minnesota, a legendary main-street-main-stay is preparing to shut its doors and hand over the reins.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

New York Mills, MN (WDAY TV) - In New York Mills, Minnesota, a legendary main-street-main-stay is preparing to shut its doors and hand over the reins.

LeRoy Smith has run the bakery there for more than 40 years; but after countless long days and short nights, LeRoy and his wife, Josie, are preparing for a much-deserved vacation, leaving the Finnish, Otter Tail community to grieve the retirement of their favorite baker.

Josie Smith- Retiring after 42 Years: “We've had so many good times here.”

Inside the Bake Shoppe in New York Mills, a mammoth, muscle mixer preps more dough for holiday buns.

LeRoy Smith- Baker in NYM for 42 Years: “30-35 dozen hamburger buns in there.”

“I get here around 1:00 1:30 in the morning.”

And LeRoy Smith, who came to work while most of us slept, moves around his ovens and prep tables like a veteran.

LeRoy Smith: “The last couple of weeks, since we are quitting, they have been coming in strong.”

…A veteran of his bakery for 42 years.

LeRoy Smith: “This is a glaze I put on the Julekake”

A sleep deprived, good-humored, talented craftsman of all things sweet and good.

LeRoy Smith: “It has been a good thing. I would not change a thing. I have enjoyed it.”

The war in Vietnam was just winding down when LeRoy decided to put out his shingle in New York Mills.

LeRoy Smith: “We bought it on December 9th, 1971.”

…A family tradition.

LeRoy Smith: “My dad was a baker in Parkers Prairie.”

And so for nearly half a century, LeRoy and Josie have fed the town: Birthdays, weddings and funerals for friends. It all ends Christmas Eve.

LeRoy Smith: “Tomorrow we are done; scary… Almost as scary as the day I started.”

Mary Windels- Worked at NYM 35 Years Ago: “It has always been my favorite place to work. LeRoy was the best boss.”

That's Mary Windels, who worked here 35 years ago.

Windels: “We had more fun. It was more fun than work.”

Mary drove back from the St. Cloud area today, just to see LeRoy, and frost a few Christmas cookies. There is, she says, something about this place.

Windels: “This is part of home when people come home; and in high school, we would come here instead of eating school food.”

And in the heart of Finlander country, LeRoy has become a pro at making Finnish specialties like Finnish sweet bread and cinnamon toast, both with names this Norwegian cannot pronounce.

Windels: “Because we grew up on it, the school served it.”

This has been a six-day-a-week job.

LeRoy Smith: “These hours are not for everyone.”

Vacations at the lake in the summer: Forget it. A few days in the winter simply means…

Josie Smith: “We close shop.”

And LeRoy is a little sentimental when thinking about the hours he put in here to support his family.

LeRoy Smith: “My kids were being born when we first bought this; and now I have great grandchildren and they are going to be the first ones I spend time with. The first ones to spoil will be great grandkids, and they will really get spoiled.”

Here at the Bake Shoppe, the regulars have their own coffee cups with their names… The cozy comforts of home, the smell of fresh bread and a cherished main street tradition.

After a year and a half on the market, a buyer came along just days ago.

Since they are new to the business, LeRoy says he will mentor and teach them the business until they are comfortable with it.