Hans’ Bakery grand re-opening rises to the sweet occasion

By 5:30 a.m. on a frozen Saturday morning, hundreds packed the Hans’ Bakery parking lot and wound around snowbanks circling the 5th Avenue bakery, their mouths watering in anticipation of the sweet treats lining bakery shelves inside.

After savoring a box of glazed donuts and chocolate long johns, the Emmerich family divides a Hans’ Bakery beehive to celebrate Cherie Emmerich’s birthday, a family tradition that goes back generations.

After savoring a box of glazed donuts and chocolate long johns, the Emmerich family divides a Hans’ Bakery beehive to celebrate Cherie Emmerich’s birthday, a family tradition that goes back generations.Photo by Sue Austreng

Once inside, beehives and long johns, donuts and bismarks tempted visitors from sparkling glass shelves as sunlight flooded the remodeled interior of the decades-old traditional German bakery.

Feb. 22 marked the grand re-opening of the iconic landmark, a bakery many have come to love as a meeting spot, a gathering place, a source of sweets and treats and stories and sentiments.

Take the Emmerich family for example. When Mama (aka Karen Emmerich) was in junior high at Fred Moore, she always got to stop at the bakery for a treat before school. Once she grew up, married and had children, Hans’ Bakery remained a favorite tradition.

“Whenever one of us had a birthday, we always used to come here for a birthday beehive,” said daughter Michelle, sitting at a table surrounded by family members on Hans’ Bakery’s grand re-opening day.

In the center of the table? A beehive, ready to be cut and shared with family in celebration of daughter Cherie’s 23rd birthday.

“It’s my birthday on Monday, so we’re doing what we’ve always done for birthdays: sharing a Hans’ Bakery beehive,” Cherie said as her dad cut the giant circular pastry filled with creamy custard and dusted with powdered sugar and slivered almonds.

The Emmerich’s traditional birthday beehive celebration was put on hold for four or five years when – after Hans and Traudy died – the bakery changed hands, bakers changed recipes and then fell into foreclosure back in 2010.

But Hans’ Bakery faithful never lost hope the bakery would open again. And soon enough Kelly Olsen purchased the bakery, found original German recipes, remodeled the interior, outfitting the kitchen with state of the art equipment, and re-opened the iconic bakery.

Olsen carefully preserved Hans’ original baking table and re-imagined its use as a giant dining table. On re-opening morning, hundreds of customers circled around that table as they wound their way toward the bakery shelves and made their purchases.

“Every original beehive was made on this table. It’s seen many, many years of history in the kitchen. Now it’s here for everyone to enjoy,” said Kelly Olsen’s husband Ben, leaning on the table as dozens of customers enjoyed donuts and long johns – and of course beehives – around him.

Jayson Anderson and his two little boys, Hunter and Holden, were among the long-time Hans’ Bakery customers.

“I used to walk here practically every morning with my grandma. I’d get MM cookies and chocolate milk – that was my favorite back then – and she’d be meeting everyone,” Anderson said as his boys “inhaled” a Texas donut.

Anderson’s grandma was known to everyone as “Granny” and every day Granny would walk the two blocks from her home to the bakery, sit at a corner table with her donut and coffee and meet and greet everyone who came in.

“Even when she broke her hip, she’d call the driver and he’d bring her to Hans’ Bakery every morning, 6 o’clock. He thought she worked here,” Anderson said, smiling at the sweet memory of his grandmother’s Hans’ Bakery habit, and then said, “I just about cried coming in here this morning. I’m just so happy they’re open again.”

Mary Winter sat in the corner booth with Anderson and the boys on grand re-opening day.

“I’m one who used to come meet with Granny,” Winter said. “There were four or five of us ladies – and a couple of men – who would come up here to visit over coffee and donuts all year ‘round.”

Winter also remembered earlier Hans’ Bakery days when as a child she and her playmates would “climb the snowbanks. We just had to get here,” she said.

Nathan Lucast wore a happy grin as he waited in line on grand re-opening day.

“I’m so happy they’re open again. I’ve waited five years for them to open and I speak for everyone when I saw I’m very excited they are open again,” Lucast said, grinning from ear to ear as he reviewed the dwindling list of baked goodies available to the grand re-opening day crowd.

Olsen and her baking crew got their final licenses at 5 p.m. Feb. 21 and fired up the ovens by 7 p.m., baking through the night for the next day’s early-morning grand re-opening event.

“The bakers wanted to make as much product as possible, so we have all the traditional stuff on the shelves this morning and it’s going fast,” Ben Olsen said, watching while one of the baking staff climbed a ladder and crossed out another sold-out item on the chalkboard behind the register.

“Everyone’s loving it. We’re very happy to be here,” Olsen said.

Originally owned and operated by German immigrants Hans and Traudy Birkner, Hans’ Bakery opened in 1973 and made the Birkners’ American dream come true.

And now, with new ownership, new equipment, and a new remodel, Kelly Olsen and her crew hope to satisfy folks’ cravings for some sweet baked treats for years to come.

Hans’ Bakery (1423 Fifth Ave., Anoka) is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

To learn more, find Hans’ Bakery on Facebook or call 763-421-4200.

Sue Austreng is at
[email protected]

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