By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Spring 2015)
Valentine’s Day, with its surfeit of chocolate and other candy, is over. Soon will be Easter, along with more chocolate, as well as a variety of other indulgent sweets. I got to wondering about the availability of candy in the early days of Beltrami County. The first mention of candy that I found was maple sugar cakes distributed to visiting children by Chief Bemidji!
It did not take long before bakeries and candy stores, or confectionaries as they were called, were scattered throughout the area. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Thompson built one of the first in Bemidji on Third Street during the summer of 1896. By July they even had new sidewalks in front of their business. Also, on Third Street in the late 1890s Arthur Wheelock established a combination employment office/confectionary/news stand. These were not the only people to have sweet treat shops on Third Street! Stahl’s Bakery was also there. So was Oppegaard’s Honeyland Candy Kitchen, which later was known as Suman’s Third Street Candy Kitchen.
There were many more bakeries and confectionaries in Bemidji over the years, as well as in surrounding communities. In Puposky, the McKnight family had a building that included the local switchboard, a barber shop and taxi service, as well as a confectionary. Turtle River had both the Cook’s Candy Store and the Guyette Bakery. Both stayed in business until 1909.
Here is a little sidetrack story for you. Harry Sinker had a toothache, and went to Shevlin to have it treated. He went through Solway and decided to open a confectionary there. He also became the town marshal.
Let’s not forget Kelliher. The operator of the Kelliher Hotel, N. J. Nielsen, was an apprentice to a baker in Norway. Nielsen became known for the rich melt-in-your-mouth pastries he made for the hotel. Baker Ben Richardson of Eggen’s Café and Bakery in Kelliher was also known as a good Norwegian baker. Especially loved were his cream puffs, the Wednesday special. A cream puff and a cup of egg coffee could be had for 15 cents!
Certainly most treats were made at home. But it is good to know that even in the early days of Beltrami County, there were bakeries and confectionaries enough to satisfy the sweet tooth!