Bloedow’s Bakery continues to see community support

Gabriel Hathaway, Features Writer

It is 8:30 a.m., Jan. 23, the middle of Minnesota winter. The sun is rising to warm the six-degree air. All is still, except for a line of 10 eager, socially distanced people snaking out the front door of Bloedow’s Bakery. The customers stand in groups, alone or in pairs, shoulders shrugged high to protect their necks from the frosty air. They await their pastries in puffy jackets and thick caps with ruddy cheeks and runny noses.

One Winona resident, Samantha, said she is willing to withstand the frigid conditions to get into Bloedow’s Bakery.

“[It’s] fresh, homemade, you know the recipe has been around for a long time,” Samantha said. “[Bloedow’s Bakery] is unchanged and you don’t really get that anywhere else.”

“Their [Bloedow’s Bakery] doughnuts are to die for,” Bill Soranno, a Winona State University IT faculty member, said. “They are the best Winona has to offer. Actually, in Southeast Minnesota too.”

This little local bakery has a long history and tradition behind it. According to the Bloedow’s Bakery website, the shop was first started by second generation German immigrants, Ernest and Mary Bloedow in 1924. The local Winona bakery would then be passed through three generations in the family. First to Ernest and Mary’s daughter, Mildred, and her husband Julius in 1941. Then to Mildred and Julius’ son Earnest and his wife Darleen some 40 years later in 1984.

In 2004, ownership of Bloedow’s Bakery would be passed on to someone outside of the family for the first time. Hugh Polus had been mentored by Ernest and Darleen since the age of 15 to continue the Bloedow’s tradition, and so in 2004 when Hugh and Mary Polus took over, no changes to the recipes were made.

“They [Bloedow’s Bakery items] are the best. I’ve never had one, and I have heard they’re the best,” one customer in line, Madi, said. “My friend grew up in Winona, she’s in her late 40’s and lives in Canada now [and] she said she used to come here when she was a little kid.”

More than just a Winona classic, Bloedow’s Bakery has been awarded various honors in its nearly 100-year-long history. Bloedow’s was voted the best doughnut shop in Minnesota by WCCO Minneapolis in March of 2012. The shop was also awarded a Winona Tourism Award in 2014. Bloedow’s Bakery holds an esteemed 4.8 stars on Google Reviews with many reviewers praising it for its delicious doughnuts and low prices. Bloedow’s Bakery even won a two-year pastry battle in 2005 against the doughnut-giant Krispy Kreme. Winona citizens just enjoyed the locally baked goods of Bloedow’s Bakery over Krispy Kreme, so Krispy Kreme left Winona after only two years.

Like other businesses, COVID-19 also had an impact on Bloedow’s Bakery. To allow for social distancing inside the shop, only two people are allowed inside at a time. There are social distancing signs in the waiting line outside, masks are required, surfaces are sanitized often and Bloedow’s Bakery has an online store for pickup orders. When Bloedow’s Bakery had its three-day reopening after being shut down for some time last year due to COVID, the store sold over 13,000 doughnuts, as reported by the Winona Daily News.

“There’s less college students [at Bloedow’s Bakery], more high school and middle-aged people. I guess just because of COVID people are going home,” Miranda, an employee at Bloedow’s Bakery and a Winona State fourth-year student, speculates.

Despite this, Miranda said the overall number of people shopping at Bloedow’s Bakery “is about the same, we just can’t have as many people in here [due to COVID].”

Another Bloedow’s Bakery customer, Heidi, said the bakery’s items are worth the wait for many reasons, including the fact they are a local business.

“It’s just fun to support locals, especially now since we aren’t going out so much,” Heidi said.

More fans and costumers of the local bakery said it is about more than shopping local for them, including how Bloedow’s Bakery connects them to their families.

Dicey Spring, a fourth-year Winona State student, said Bloedow’s Bakery reminds her of her grandmother.

“When I was younger my grandma would always bring us Bloedow’s,” Spring said. “My grandma was in the nursing home here for a while and I would bring her Bloedow’s. I feel like you always have to get some to share when you go to Bloedow’s. You can’t just get one doughnut; you have to get some to share.”

“You don’t just go for yourself to Bloedow’s,” recent Winona State graduate Kristen Carrie said. “It’s meant to be shared and unite people, which is nice.”