See more of the story

Bob Baldinger remembers the moment that would change the trajectory of his life.

Delivering bread to a St. Paul restaurant, the baker was introduced to a visiting businessman who was looking for someone to help supply the first Minnesota franchise of a tiny outfit called McDonald's. The restaurant was to open in Roseville.

"You know how to make hamburger buns?" the man asked. "Sure," Baldinger lied, having never made them.

Today, the bakery, now run by his sons, supplies buns to 1,400 McDonald's restaurants across North America. And this month that little restaurant on Snelling Avenue turns 60 years old.

"It was not only the first in Minnesota but it was No. 63 in the entire nation, which I consider equally significant," considering that the grand total has risen above 14,000, said ex-Minnesota Viking Tim Baylor, who bought the store last year.

Minnesota alone now has more than 200 McDonald's franchises.

To celebrate the milestone, the restaurant on Monday offered 60-cent hamburgers and cheeseburgers, cake and ice cream. Employees wore throwback shirts and hats.

It wasn't quite the 15-cent burger of McDonald's birth, but the place was still jammed at lunchtime.

If McDonald's Roseville opening in 1957 was greeted with no particular clamor or even notice in the news media, some said, it's key to recall just how primitive the era actually was.

The chain arose at a time when burger joints were often greasy spoons, loud and smelly — not to mention seasonal enterprises that were shuttered in the winter, said Tim Cody. He's the grandson of the Roseville McDonald's first owner, David "Mickey" Crimmins — better known for his iconic Mickey's Diner in downtown St. Paul.

Legendary burger tycoon Ray Kroc wanted McDonald's to be family-friendly, clean-cut and standardized, with no unpleasant surprises. His reluctance to hire women, company historians say, stemmed from a belief that flirty carhops were part of the down-market vibe.

Baldinger remembers being introduced at the Criterion restaurant in St. Paul to Harry Sonneborn, immortalized in the 2016 Kroc biopic "The Founder." Sonneborn was the financial wizard behind the whole enterprise.

"When they talked of needing hamburger buns all year round," said Baldinger, "I was like, 'In Minnesota? Do you know how cold it gets here? And you really think you'll make money selling them for 15 cents?' "

Today, the Baldinger Bakery operation in St. Paul handles McDonald's buns not just for the Upper Midwest but for a territory stretching from the Canadian Rockies to Ottawa, Ontario, plus upstate New York.

The first McDonald's franchise opened in Des Plaines, Ill., in 1955. According to a photo display, the Roseville store had the classic look — long since gone in most places — in which the Golden Arches were the most prominent architectural feature.

The section of Roseville where McDonald's opened, not far north of the St. Paul line, is something of a historic district. It's the same area that would see, only five years later, the opening of the first Target store.

Shortly after that, HarMar Mall opened just across Snelling from McDonald's, marking a moment of great consternation in the community, according to Roseville Mayor Dan Roe.

"There was a lot of opposition," he said. "To many it meant we were not a farming community anymore."

David Peterson • 651-925-5039