In the fall of 2012, Marilyn K. Slaubaugh and her daughters started a bakery in their home on the farm southwest of Wolford.
"I basically did the bakery for my daughters to have something to do and give them a little bit of income," Marilyn said.
Nearly four years later, she finds the bakery is still growing but her family is shrinking, and she is down to only one daughter at home. Of her four daughters, two, Kaylene and Twilene, have married and moved since the bakery began, and her daughter Darlene is working in Nevada. Fortunately, the remaining daughter, Charlene, is happy to do all the baking.
Charlene Slaubaugh has mastered the art of making homemade caramel rolls that fly off the shelves weekly.
"I was (selling) at the Hub when I first started the bakery," Marilyn said. She then branched out to the north Envision and for four months sold at both locations. When the Hub closed, she continued at Envision, where she now delivers baked treats two days a week.
Charlene bakes every Monday and Wednesday, putting in full eight-hour days, and Marilyn stocks the Envision shelves Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
"They're usually on the shelf from Tuesday through Friday," Marilyn said. Provided, that is, the goodies stick around that long. If some items are not selling well she marks down prices, and Monday is always a sale day, she said.
The Slaubaughs do not do the over-the-counter sales but keep the shelves stocked. Envision employees do the rest.
"I can't be home baking if I'm there selling," Marilyn said.
Even before starting the baking business the Slaubaughs had two kitchens, one in the basement of their home and one upstairs. When they decided to bake commercially, the basement kitchen was remodeled to North Dakota State Health Department specifications. "It is totally closed off from the rest of the house," Marilyn said. They don't have a large commercial oven, but rely on two regular ovens instead. They have a three-compartment sink, as required, and a refrigerator and freezer, which must both be kept at a certain temperature.
"We have enough counter space," Marilyn said, "but it would be nice to have more."
The kitchen is inspected by the health department once a year. "They look at everything," she said, "and every year there is a small infraction. Last time I didn't have some containers labeled. We knew what was in them, but we had to label them."
Several items have become favorites with her customers. She first tried pumpkin bars last year and was surprised that they were a hot seller. "Lots of times I can take them in the morning and by evening they're gone," she said. "Another big seller is caramel rolls. And rhubarb cream pies are in season now," she added. Occasionally an item is nearly sold out before she has the shelves completely stocked.
Goodies regularly baked in addition to rolls, bars and pies include buns, breads and cookies, of which peanut butter blossoms and monster cookies are best sellers.
The Slaubaughs like the flexibility of having their own business. "I can close the bakery if I need to be gone," Marilyn said. She is usually closed in the wintertime for two weeks or a month, often in January. "After Christmas people are trying to lose weight," she said with a laugh. And with all the hats she wears-manager, bookkeeper, merchandiser, delivery driver-she welcomes a break.
Marilyn plans to continue the bakery until Charlene leaves home. "But I'll continue to bake special orders after that," she said.
To this point, special orders have not been a large part of the business. Marilyn and Charlene have baked for a graduation party or two and last year catered an engagement party. But with all the details involved in catering, and not many hands to help, Marilyn discovered it just wasn't feasible.
"I think we'll just stick with the baking," she said.
That decision is good news for all the sweet tooth out there.