Don and Lauri Bittner were on an evening walk along First Avenue last year when they noticed the former Shakopee Bakery building was for sale.
Don had recently lost his job at the Shakopee Valley Printing Plant, which closed in August 2019.
“We thought, ‘this could be something interesting,’” Don said.
Bruce Garness, the previous owner of the retail store, still operates a wholesale bakery out of Shakopee, but closed the storefront in 2017. Through connections from her previous photography business, Lauri Bittner was able to get in touch with Garness to share the couple’s interest in purchasing the property.
While neither had worked in the bakery business before, Lauri had perfected her caramel apple pie recipe, the only apple pie Don will eat.
Since then, it’s been a nine-month process of applying for bank loans, perfecting recipes and figuring out how to refurbish the interior of a building originally constructed in the 1800s.
One of the biggest challenges of opening a bakery in the middke of a pandemic has been the financial side of opening a business. The Small Business Administration shifted its focus to helping existing small businesses once COVID hit, prolonging the process for new businesses like Bittner’s Bakery to enter the market.
“I totally get it though, those businesses already exist and they need that help,” said Lauri. “It just made our loan process a lot slower.”
In June 2020, the Shakopee City Council awarded the Bittners with a facade improvement loan that would help make exterior repairs to the building to match other downtown storefronts.
Once finances began to line up, appraisals of the property could begin to take place. The Bittners learned hands-on how to finish a wholesale plan, write a “full-blown business plan,” and schedule meetings with the SBA, local banks, appraisers and contractors.
The Bittners officially closed on the building on Aug. 2, and will begin construction this week.
“When you’re doing a renovation like this, you will run into a lot of surprises,” said Don.
For example, although much of the current equipment in the bakery’s kitchen will be removed, the giant oven and mixer will stay put during interior construction. While contractors will handle renovations of the flooring and other foundational projects, much of the refurbishment will be up to the Bittners, along with the help of family and friends.
The bakery’s colors will be turquoise, black and white, the Bittners’ wedding colors.
Despite some hiccups along the way, Don and Lauri are optimistic about what is to come.
“Everything fell into place,” said Lauri. “There were so many signs that we were doing the right thing.”
Bittner’s Bakery will have a soft opening in fall 2020, followed by a grand opening on a to-be-determined date.
In the meantime, the Bittners will enjoy spending rare free time with their children and playing pool, their favorite shared activity as a couple. They’ll also continue experimenting with recipes — some old favorites from the original Shakopee bakery, like Garness’ apple fritters, will make a return appearance. Lauri also hopes to incorporate low-glycemic and gluten-free items into their offerings.
“We’re looking forward to those few days after we’re open when we can just breathe,” Lauri said. “Then, we’ll start right away.”
Bittner’s Bakery is located at 114 1st Ave. E. Shakopee and will open in fall 2020. For updates, you can visit their Facebook page.