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BizCast 24: Sweet Talking for Linda’s Bakery 50th Anniversary

Episode 24

Sweet Talking for Linda’s Bakery 50th Anniversary

About BizCast Greater La Crosse

We bring you news from the business community. From startups to experienced problem solvers, you’ll get in-depth insight on the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Greater La Crosse. Our show is a collaboration between and BizNews Greater La Crosse ( ).


  • Baking and business milestones. 0:02
    • Linda’s Bakery celebrates 50 years with weekend-long celebration, door prizes, and anniversary cake.
    • Co-Owner Bob Anderson explains that seasonal products are popular with customers who like to celebrate holidays and occasions, and the bakery helps them out with those products.
  • Bakery’s history and growth. 4:07
    • Bob Anderson discusses growing up in a bakery, helping with baking, and learning from mistakes.
    • Linda bought West Salem Salem bakery from Harold Hetland in 1973, and recipes were passed on through generations.
  • Bakery’s history, menu, and pandemic adaptations. 6:48
    • Vicki Markussen and Bob Anderson discuss Linda’s Bakery’s navigation of changing consumer preferences and food allergies.
    • Bakery adapts to pandemic by offering online ordering and curbside pickup.
  • Bakery operations, traditions, and education. 10:15
    • Bakery adjusts to changing market demands by offering custom orders and wholesale delivery to restaurants.
    • Anderson discusses baking science and craft, sharing insights on ingredient balance, temperature control, and recipe customization.
  • Bakery operations and employee dedication. 13:31
    • Employees work hard to bake, decorate, and serve products fresh for customers during busy times like holidays.
    • Linda’s Bakery values employees and community, prioritizing quality products and service.

Full Transcript [ generated by AI]

Bob Anderson 0:02
Working hard during holidays thanksgiving for example, we’re baking 1000s of pies in the days leading up to Thanksgiving

Vicki Markussen 0:11
Welcome to BizCast Greater La Crosse, a weekly podcast brought to you by biz news greater Lokar as we bring you news from the business community, I’m your host and founder Vicki Markussen. And I have the pleasure of having Bob Anderson join me Bob is getting used to the title of co owner, because he’s been general manager of Linda’s bakery for 20 of your 50 years, not your personal 50 years, the company’s 50 years because you’re celebrating 50 years this year. What a big deal. That is. What do you have planned for it?

Bob Anderson 0:44
Yes, we’re celebrating 50 years this year since Linda’s bakery inception in 1973. We’re holding a weekend long celebration to thank our customers for their loyalty for keeping us in business. And we’re serving anniversary cake giving out some door prizes and some coupons for every customer for the rest of the year.

Vicki Markussen 1:04
It’s an amazing milestone I was saying, as we were warming up if you earlier that 50 years, most businesses don’t make it five, and especially anything having to do with food. Usually it’s like two or three of those critical years. And so it is time for a celebration. But for people that have never stepped into Linda’s, of which everyone is going to go you have never been to Linda’s, but it is truly amazing. So describe all the products that you have and that you sell there.

Bob Anderson 1:34
Yeah, I still hear that from customers. This is my first time here and we welcome them. We have a wide variety of bread and buns to pastries and rolls that we make every day in our case. And we make desserts from chocolate mousse center cooler to decorated cakes for birthdays and other celebrations.

Vicki Markussen 1:56
So I’m envisioning as I like step in so to the right, there’s the wedding cakes and like a whole beautiful area for wedding cake planning. And you have coffee, you have an amazing counter of all kinds of goodies doughnuts and cake pops. And then as I go to the left even have dog treats, right?

Bob Anderson 2:17
Yes, yes, we make dog treats. And that was called Cody’s dog bones from Linda’s granddaughter, she called him Cody inspired the recipe and the name for the dog bones. And they’re very popular,

Vicki Markussen 2:30
they are popular. And then if I keep going through and visualizing to the left, do you have some of your refrigerated items? describe what’s in that case?

Bob Anderson 2:40
Yes, we still from our freezer pre decorated dirt, the birthday cakes. And we sell dessert cakes and gluten free items. We bake those once a week on a dedicated gluten free day. And then we offer them daily from the freezer case.

Vicki Markussen 2:54
Ah, so people with gluten allergies can take note of that. And then just all kinds of goodies on the inside everything from chocolate covered goodies to like, like puppy chow, right and crackers and just snacks. And then a seasonal table that always gets me every time I’ll I didn’t plan on coming and seeing this. And I’ll take one of those and one of those. And so let’s talk about the seasonality. So you bring in a lot of seasonal products. Why is that?

Bob Anderson 3:25
Yes, our customers like to celebrate seasons and holidays and occasions. So we help those celebrations with our seasonal products. You know, holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas are our busiest times along with graduation season. Our customers like to celebrate those special occasions and holidays with our products and we’re there to help them out with that

Vicki Markussen 3:47
and help out you do because I will confess I’m one of these people that my brain wanders when I bake. And I’m like, Wait, how much sugar did I just add? And so it doesn’t turn out and I’m so disappointed. And so you were my You are my godson for Christmas cookies this year. So thank you for that. That’s what you do you help people out in those ways. So yes, we

Bob Anderson 4:07
do the baking for our customers during the busy Christmas season. Yes. And

Vicki Markussen 4:11
we were talking about that too. Because you know, a lot of places that have been around for a long time, remember, okay, back in the cache, what would it be when you started so 1973 And we were saying you were on in downtown on Leonard street that not you personally but Linda’s was there? And that would be your grandma, right? So I am your aunt and that’s right. So your aunt bought what business?

Bob Anderson 4:36
Linda bought Salem bakery from Harold HetLand in 1973. And before that the Bakery started in 1926.

Vicki Markussen 4:48
Wow. Did recipes get passed on?

Bob Anderson 4:52
Yes, recipes got passed on. So Linda was the third maybe fourth owner of the bakery. Starting in 1973, and then my dad Mark became her partner in 79.

Vicki Markussen 5:05
So that was a brother, sister. And then the brother being your dad, had you and your sister Laura, and you’re married your mom’s Sue?

Bob Anderson 5:16
Yes. And we have other siblings. My brother Michael works there with us as well, Laura and I are beginning to plan into ownership with my parents.

Vicki Markussen 5:25
And did you ever see yourself doing that?

Bob Anderson 5:29
Yes, I did. Did you I grew up in the bakery from when I was a young child’s and in high school, I worked there on weekends, and through college, and now working there full time.

Vicki Markussen 5:42
So what is it like to grow up in a bakery?

Bob Anderson 5:45
It’s fun and exciting. We always got to help with the baking. And we’re always there. Either sleeping on flour sacks during busy times, or, or playing to and also helping and learning how to work there.

Vicki Markussen 5:59
And you have to have seen the physical store if you will grow the bakery grow, like how do you remember what’s the earliest memory you have?

Bob Anderson 6:11
One of my earliest memories was from around 1994 When Linda’s bakery, remodeled the current building that we’re in to the new storefront. And I remember that construction happening. That’s one of my first memories. And another memory from helping bake is as pushing a rack of cookies. I pushed it the incorrect way and the whole rack tipped over. And I knocked over a rack with cookies in and I learned from my mistakes. We learned from our mistakes. Sometimes Mistakes happen and and I learned one of my first hard mistakes that day.

Vicki Markussen 6:48
Yeah, cuz these aren’t little cookie sheets. I’m guessing these are some pretty significant. Like we’re talking a rack like stacks, right pans

Bob Anderson 6:56
of two and a half dozen per pan. Yes.

Vicki Markussen 7:00
Oh, yeah. Those I’m sure you’re not the only one to remember is that?

Bob Anderson 7:07
Yeah, that’s a common story.

Speaker 3 7:10
Yes, you’re letting who own this place? Who to remember what he did 15 years ago. So.

Vicki Markussen 7:17
So you are moving into CO ownership and the baking industry. So where I was going with that is so it’s been around since 19? Well, Linda’s has been around since 1973, moved to the current location 1983. And there was this quote, well, it’s not a craze. Everyone’s just very health conscious, right? Oh, how many calories are in that? And so I was surprised by your answer. When I asked how has Linda’s navigated the people eating healthier.

Bob Anderson 7:49
We’re focused on what we do best. We’re making our best quality bakery products for customers to enjoy simple things. We call it an affordable luxury. So we help customers celebrate birthdays, weekends, holidays, with the products that we make,

Vicki Markussen 8:05
and everything in moderation. And the other thing that has happened and it’s probably existed, maybe people have become more sensitive, but food allergies, right? How are you adjusting to food allergies? You mentioned the gluten free day. What is it? What does it look like to be a baker in this day and age?

Bob Anderson 8:24
Well, for one we don’t, we don’t call our products gluten free because we bake them in a facility with gluten. So we use the term gluten friendly, simply to caution our customers that we’re doing our best, but it’s not completely free of gluten, even though the ingredients themselves are free of gluten, but we do our best to make those products on a separate day for those customers. We bake once a week and have those products available in our freezer.

Vicki Markussen 8:49
So people are eating healthier. One thing that is significant that happened in your history is the pandemic. Yeah, and I can only imagine I mean like many places having to figure out touch lists contact right with your products. How do you keep selling? Talk about how that how the pandemic helped to launch into a new area that you weren’t expecting, particularly with taking orders online?

Bob Anderson 9:19
Yes, we want to continue to serve our customers in every way we can following local laws and guidelines. So we offered curbside pickup and that was very popular for a time we were taking a lot of orders on the phone and we wanted to make that more efficient. So on our website, we now have online ordering available for customers to pick up the next day. And so most of our products that we have in the store every day can be ordered online for the convenience of our customers and to help us manage our time better as well.

Vicki Markussen 9:50
Has that helped to become more efficient, do you think? Yes, I

Bob Anderson 9:53
think so. We spend a lot of time on the phone taking orders and we are happy to do that with Your customers, but we realize that customers today are more technologically inclined. So if they can do it themselves online, then they will. So we want to promote that to let the customers look at pictures, choose what they want to order and get their order ready for pickup themselves.

Vicki Markussen 10:15
And plus, then they can order after hours when you may not be open or during peak times. And you’re crazy busy. And so people can still walk in and buy cakes, I’m assuming, and get those custom, decorated, customized.

Bob Anderson 10:32
Yes, custom orders. We don’t take online currently, because there’s a personal touch to understanding what kind of custom decorations customers want on their birthday cakes to wedding cakes. So you still take those in person or on the phone.

Vicki Markussen 10:46
So you still want people to customize their orders with you because it’s very personalized. The other thing that happened is you are starting to get requests from restaurants or essentially food providers for your bakery. How How are you adjusting to that?

Bob Anderson 11:05
Yeah, we took advantage of an opportunity to gain restaurants as our wholesale customers. So we deliver five days a week to the lacrosse on Alaska area to our customers. And so they ordered from US bonds and bread to make their sandwiches that they’re serving, and we are growing rapidly in that area to provide for those new wholesale customers.

Vicki Markussen 11:27
That’s the one thing that online shopping can’t replace fresh bread right? Low, you got to go local for that. It’s the beauty of what you do what you what you have will be in demand as long as people are serving sandwiches. Yeah, what a great thing. The knowledge that you have not just in your workers, but the education that you and your sister went through. So let’s start with you and your sister. How did you aside from growing up in a bakery? How did you learn what you know,

Bob Anderson 11:58
from working in the bakery, primarily, traditions and baking methods are passed on to us and our employees. And then in addition, I personally studied at the American Institute of baking in Manhattan, Kansas for a semester, and I have a certificate in baking science technology.

Vicki Markussen 12:17
And that has to do with I mean, baking is pretty widespread. But obviously it starts with yeast and how you want things to rise in temperature and like what did you learn like people think of baking in it? It seems simple and yet complicated?

Bob Anderson 12:34
Yes, it’s very scientific. It requires a balance of temperature and pH and all the ingredients to make high quality finished, bake good.

Vicki Markussen 12:45
And then you get people saying, I want chocolate in my bakery. And I want blueberries, right? And so how does that change how you bake things?

Bob Anderson 12:55
Yes, some combinations work better than others. For example, you know, when baking with fruit, you have to consider the moisture content and and adjust recipes for that. So each recipe is unique in all the considerations of balancing the chemistry.

Vicki Markussen 13:10
And it’s really a craft. I mean, it’s just that body of knowledge is so specialized. And then you add decorating on top of it. And you’re a company that’s been around for 50 years, how many total employees do you have? How long have they been with you? And what is the value of that skill set? How does they get passed on?

Bob Anderson 13:30
Yes, our employees are very valuable. We have over 70 employees. And some of the most tenured employees have been with us over 20 years. And they’re very dedicated, very hard working, and they’re very good at what they do. We have Baker’s baking every night to make our products and we have decorators using their artistic talent to create custom cakes and desserts. And then all of our sales staff are working hard to serve our customers with the best customer service they can. So we rely on every employee to keep the business running and and they’re the heart of our business and we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.

Vicki Markussen 14:11
And I can only imagine the dedication right so I walk in at 8am and there’s all kinds of goodies available. And you mentioned they’ve been doing that overnight to get them fresh and out. They’ve been there for hours before most of us see them. So what is your operations look like? When is it busy? When are things getting made and and ensuring that they’re fresh?

Bob Anderson 14:35
Yes, we’re busy all day long. Starting with our Baker’s working overnight to have the products big fresh in the morning. And our morning clerks come in at 430 in the morning to get all the items frosted, packaged and prepared and we’re busy, especially on weekends and holidays. We sell a lot of our products during those times when customers are coming in to sell Write a day off or a birthday or holiday. And we’re there to provide those products for them

Vicki Markussen 15:06
that I didn’t even think about, right. So all these things that we take for granted of, oh, I have a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, someone has been working, so that that is possible for the rest of us to enjoy on those family gatherings and those holidays. And so

Bob Anderson 15:21
we’re working hard during holidays, Thanksgiving, for example, we’re baking 1000s of pies in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, to serve our customers during that busy time.

Vicki Markussen 15:31
Wow, thank you to your employees, that is a gift to our community. You know, as we talk about these, these celebrations, this really this sense of being a part of our community, right? You’re hiring local people, you’re a local business, do you take a lot of pride and in how you add to family traditions and our community and how our community enjoys what you and your employees make?

Bob Anderson 16:00
Yes, we do. Enjoy serving the community. And that’s what we’re here to do. And our primary mission is to bake the best quality bakery products we can and serve them with the best customer service. And then second to that. We value our employees and we all work hard together to serve the community and we want to make sure that our employees have a good quality of life too. So we take care of our employees. We’re like one big happy family and I think that’s why a lot of our employees enjoy working with us is that camaraderie, that culture of a family owned business. We all work hard together for holidays when it’s busy. We eat meals together when working long shifts, and then we get time off to go home to enjoy time with our families.

Vicki Markussen 16:47
I asked you coming into this interview what you think the successes that why why did you make it 50 years?

Bob Anderson 16:57
I owe it we owe it to our hard working employees for 50 years and we hope to continue that into the future.

Vicki Markussen 17:06
Fantastic. You’ve been listening to BizCast Greater La Crosse. I’m your host Vicki Markussen. That’s Bob Anderson. He is co-owner he’s getting used to saying that and general manager of Linda’s bakery, Linda’s Bakery, a staple in West Salem and La Crosse County for 50 years. Congratulations. And we will catch you next week.




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