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Finding Minnesota: Jerabek’s Serves Up Homemade Taste

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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By Angela Davis, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — In a week and a half, most of us will be sitting down for a big Thanksgiving dinner. And if you are not the greatest cook, you may be buying some of food you’re serving from a bakery or catering service.

But there is a place right in the Twin Cities that makes cookies, cakes and pies … the old-fashioned way.

Jerabek’s New Bohemian Bakery and Coffeehouse is located on the west side of St. Paul.

It’s a corner bakery nestled between houses that you might not even notice when passing by, but it’s not unusual for newcomers to experience love at first bite.

John Wills is one of the owners. He and Russ Spangler and Ronda Vincent bought it about three years ago.

“Our baker has been here for 35 years, maybe 36 years. He started here when he was 17. He makes everything from the original recipes, from scratch. It is homemade,” said Wills.

He said without a doubt, people can tell the difference.

Jerabek’s New Bohemian Bakery opened more than 100 years ago. A Czech immigrant named Ed Jerabek started it in 1906 and the recipes he used then are still used today.

The current owners keep his original cookbook on site and they still follow them. The cookbook , with yellow and fragile pages, shows the history of the recipes.

“It is at least 106 years old. There is stuff that is newer, but probably80 years old. I should be wearing gloves or something,” said Wills.

The list of ingredients and measurements have been carefully copied over into new books and transferred to computer files for safe keeping.

And though time has passed, the activity in the kitchen has remained much the same.

Most of the people who work here received their training on the job, rather than in professional cooking schools. The managers prefer that.

“Foodwise, I learned everything here. I didn’t know anything. I actually was graduating in interior design,” said Becca Sorenson, one of the bakers who decorates the cakes.

The bakery now includes a coffeehouse and catering business.

Jerabek’s delivers much of its goods to downtown St. Paul businesses and those in the nearby neighborhood. They serve up everything from quiche and kolochies, to beef pasties and old-school Christmas cookies rarely found anymore.

“Especially if you bring it to Grandma, most likely she’s gonna be like, ‘I remember these when I was a kid.’ Because they’re all cookies in the 30s and 20s that people ate,” Wills said.

One of the challenges that the owners of Jerabek’s deal with is the remote location. So, one year ago, they tried something new. They opened a second location in the downtown St. Paul skyways.

“The thing that gets people to come back is once they have our food.  Opening up the skyway location was simply (to) broaden our area and get people try our food. We know that we are going to develop more loyal customers,” Wills said.

The bakers at Jerabek’s make cakes and pies that you can order for Thanksgiving dinner. They also make wedding cakes.

To learn more about Jerabek’s bakery, click here.

You can also check out their recipe for pecan pie that they shared with us by clicking here.

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