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“I needed to connect with the community after Jeff passed away,” she said.
Comeback at the bakery
After Hans Birkner died in 1998, the bakery went through several owners before falling into foreclosure in 2010 and closing its doors.
With her childhood memories, 21st-century marketing savvy and old-fashioned roll-up-your-sleeves grit, Olsen set out to rebuild the bakery she could still smell in her dreams.
But the recipes had to be authentic. She met with former Hans’ employees. She recruited financial help, and, at the site, she personally pulled carpet and sanded walls.
She started a Hans’ Facebook page. With her sister, Lisa, Olsen appeared on the series premiere of “Buy This Restaurant.”
Hans’ fans could smell something they could savor.
“Anoka needs a meeting place like this,” Orttel said. “But thank goodness she got the original recipes.”
Olsen — who married Ben Olsen, a fishing guide, in 2012 — has visions of selling Hans’ famous beehives at the State Fair. Hans’ already sells T-shirts and buttons, and Olsen has ordered hats.
There are likely to be buyers. The bakery has been a magnet for people with a sweet tooth or seeking a place to share conversation and memories. Those big opening-day crowds seem to reappear each morning, around 6:30, says Olsen.
“We’ve been looking for a doughnut shop, and we’ve finally got one,” said Victor Chaney, 41, as son Joel, 4, prepared to do battle with a chocolate-covered doughnut nearly his size.
“Who knew it would be the best doughnut shop in the Twin Cities?”
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419