History

On the Road: Benson Bakery

Jason Davis goes “On the Road” to Benson, Minnesota to meet owner Toby Johannessen who is third generation to run the famous store and we also get to meet his daughter who will be the fifth.

ON THE ROAD – CLICK  HERE

Ch5 On The Road

From it’s original booths to its made from scratch recipes, Benson Bakery has been a place to create memories since the building was built in 1900. Now it’s owned by a third generation of the Johannessen family.

The Benson Bakery was built in 1900 by Sam Bakken. He ran his operation as a Bakery, Cafe and Hotel. He sold it in 1927 to C. D. Oglesby and H. W. Hothan. In 1931,Ragnovld ( Norsk ) Johannessen, originally from Norway, received a call from John Dickson asking Norsk to come work for him. This time frame the Great Depression had started. Norsk then went back to Montevideo, MN where he worked for Alstads Bakery. Later that same year he received a call to come back to Benson and run the business until it could be sold. In 1932, Norsk and his wife Irene, ran the business for a year and then purchased it in 1933.

Ragnovald “Norsk” Johannessen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1900. He came to the U. S. on March 20, 1923 to lake Preston, south Dakota. He worked on a farm there. In the winter he helped at the Bakery in Lake Preston. A bakery salesman told him that there was an opening for a job in Montevideo, MN at Alstads Bakery. He took the position and learned the bakery trade.

Selma “Irene” Arness was born in Lac Queparle Township by Montevideo in 1899. She worked at different jobs and then at Alstads Bakery in Montevideo. This is where Irene and Norsk met and later married. They had one son, Jerome “Jerry” who was born in 1931. In 1939, the Johannessen Family purchased the building and added on to the rear of the bakery, extending the building to the street. A new Fisher oven was installed at the same time. Many changes were made in the following years. Such as curtain separators between the booths, two new plywood booths on the east wall, three rows of booths in the center. Then new horseshoe counter and stools in the center with plywood booths on the east wall. In the bake shop there were added new mixers for cakes and a 200# barrel mixer, a delivery truck and many other items. Besides add retail stores in Kerkhoven, Hancock, Appleton, Montevideo and Willmar, these were added in the late ’50’s and ’60’s.

In 1970, Norsk and Irene’s son, Jerry and his wife, Carol (Tollefson), purchased the business and in a later date they purchased the building. the first item to purchase was a fryer in 1970. From then on it was many items including a new truck, automatic bun rounder, steam box, 2 new Hobart mixers, a used rondo bread and roll machine and a new Fish oven. In 1972, Jerry stopped deliveries outside of town and a year later closed the cafe. But because they were left with a row of booths, a coffee urn, and a toaster after a not so well attended auction, which was on a Saturday afternoon in May, they decided to keep a self service coffee shop open along with the bakery. In the process, Jerry changed the mixing and scaling areas so it would be more compatible. A new roof was added after taking out the three skylights on top of the roof. A small walk in freezer was put in, along with a new floor in the coffee shop area and new show cases.

In 1995 Toby, Jerry and Carol’s son, was offered the purchase of the Bakery. Toby and his wife Deborah (Jacobson) along with there children moved back to Benson after living in St. Cloud area. Toby worked for his father in 1995 for wages and in 1996 he and his wife purchased the Bakery and the building.

It continues to grow in production. Locally organic grown flour is used in our products. The flour is bromate and bleach free.