When you start a new business, and that business does something extremely pleasant, you would do well to name it after your wife. This was Ed Durin’s line of thinking when he founded Dorothy Ann Bakery in St. Paul. But when you buy a successful business, and you have no desire to confuse its regulars, you would do just as well to keep its name in place. Hopefully Wally Grochowski’s own wife agreed when he took over Dorothy Ann Bakery in 1951.
Dorothy Ann has remained in the Grochowski family for nearly 70 years. Wally’s daughter Joan and her husband Steve Conway now bake bread, cakes, pies, cookies, and other things so good they transcend anyone’s powers of description. Simply walking through the aromas wafting out of their current location in Woodbury is delightful. And should you go inside to demand an interview, you will be introduced to the Conways’ daughter Colleen Cicalello.
“When you’re raised in a baker’s family, you’ll never find yourself short of cookies and donuts,” said Colleen. “But you’re also never short of things to do! My brother and I didn’t spend Saturday mornings watching cartoons. We spent them bagging buns, slicing strawberries, and mixing sweet buttercream frosting.
“Growing up, I didn’t imagine I would always work at Dorothy Ann. I went to college for business and marketing, hoping I would go off to join corporate America. I stayed with the family business while looking for jobs after graduating. One day I saw an opportunity. Even though we had a huge box of cookie cutters, we only had two or three types of cookies on display. I asked my mom why we didn’t offer a greater variety of decorated cookies, and in true Minnesota mom fashion she said to me ‘Well, if you want to make ’em, we’ll sell ’em.’
“I did make them, and we did sell them. Today our decorated cookies make up a quarter of our bakery’s showcase, and they have become extremely popular for holidays and special events. We decorate them by hand for weddings and baby showers, and can even print logos on them for corporate gifts and youth sports teams. Just yesterday we delivered a whole box of personalized cookies to the East Ridge High School cheerleading team.
“In addition to a hundred other things my specialty here is decoration. There’s a progression to decorating desserts. You start with cookies, progress to cupcakes, and then move up to sheet cakes. And once you’ve honed your skills on hundreds of ‘Happy Birthday Ashley’ cakes, you’re finally ready for wedding cakes.
“I would say custom cakes are our biggest seller, though our regulars might know us best for our donuts. We make them fresh seven days a week in every shape and flavor. Our most popular is our custard bismarck, which we fill with our own custard and top with our own fudge. It’s just about the most amazing combination of flavors you could imagine!
“Both of my mom’s parents were 100 percent Polish, so we use her family recipe to make p?czki as well. People are amazed to find the authentic Polish donuts here at Dorothy Ann and come from across the Twin Cities to order them by the box. They’re perfect in the morning with a cup of coffee – and just as good after dinner with a glass of chilled krupnik.
“Valentine’s Day is a very dessert-focused holiday, which you might imagine is a good thing for us! You will at least need some of our chocolate dipped strawberries to celebrate the day right. We have boxes of donuts that spell out ‘I Love You,’ and our decorated cookies are ready to gift in ribbon-wrapped window boxes. If you would like to impress someone with a handmade treat, then you’ll love our decorate-at-home kits. They come with a freshly baked heart-shaped cake and all the toppings you need to personalize it. It’s perfect if you’re not too sure about baking or making frosting on your own.
“There are a lot of enjoyable perks to working in a family business. Obviously working with your family is one of them. I think I get to enjoy a closer relationship with my parents than most people, and my husband really seems to appreciate his self-appointed title of ‘Official Taste-Tester.’ It’s also nice to see the same people coming in for every holiday. Our regulars know me by name, and ask for me specifically when they have an big occasion coming up. To know I’m someone’s baker – that I get to be some part of their life’s most important moments – well, I don’t think I could have gotten that if I’d wound up in corporate America.
“My son is 11 weeks old, and my daughter is 22 months. Several people have asked me why they’re not slicing strawberries and bagging buns yet. I tell them not to worry. They’ll have their day soon!”
The only place you could get treats more authentic than Dorothy Ann’s is your own grandmother’s kitchen. Go and press your face against the glass at 710 Commerce Dr in Woodbury, or shop online at dorothyannbakery.com.
By David Scheller