Nordic Ware Bundt pan sales are booming amid the pandemic, and the St. Louis Park factory is expanding to keep up with demand.
The company has submitted two expansion proposals in recent months for additional warehouse space that will also include the Bundt Cafe alongside a regional bike trail and the future Southwest light-rail line.
"Our business continues to prosper and grow as people's interest in cooking increases in this country and, of course, most recently the pandemic has accelerated that whole process," CEO David Dalquist said at a recent St. Louis Park planning commission meeting. "We believe this trend is going to continue as people have become reacquainted with the kitchen and find out that you could eat for less and you can eat healthier — all kinds of good reasons to cook in your own home."
Dalquist, whose father and uncle founded Nordic Ware in 1946, went to the city with an initial 21,220-square-foot expansion request that was approved in December. The CEO came back in February with another 45,000-square-foot addition that incorporates a cafe.
Construction is underway for the first expansion, and once the council signs off on the second proposal, likely in early April, that construction would also kick off this spring in hopes of finishing by fall.
Dalquist told the Star Tribune in 2007 that the company almost discontinued Bundt pan sales during the 1950s because the doughnut-shaped aluminum cake pan sold so poorly. But it's now iconic, displayed at the National Museum of American History and recently featured in the New York Times as the company celebrates 75 years of business.
Nordic Ware has had to rent warehouse space elsewhere to meet pandemic demand, Dalquist said, adding that his business is somewhat seasonal with the first half of the year dedicated to building inventory to be shipped during the peak of cooking season during the holidays.
The company is shipping so much kitchenware that six loading docks are being added to the campus that already has more than a dozen. The expansions will be "shoehorned" in, Dalquist said, by turning an existing parking lot into warehouse.
With the proposed light rail coming to Nordic Ware's front door, both employees and visitors — who wouldn't normally drop by the factory — can use that transit option, making the cafe a "compelling component," said Planning Commissioner Tom Weber.
Dalquist said Nordic Ware would likely find a St. Louis Park bakery to prep baked goods off-site and supply the cafe. There will also be coffee and other beverages for guests to enjoy on an outdoor plaza facing the trail.
Dalquist said the project meets a lot of the city's initiatives by focusing on transit-oriented development, as well as environmental sustainability — the new warehouse space will feature a 100 kilowatt solar array.
"They're a very creative company in how they use their space and maximize it," said UrbanWorks architect David Haaland, who is leading both expansion projects.
Jacquelyn Kramer, associate city planner, said the council is tentatively scheduled to take action on the second expansion April 5.
She said although construction of the Southwest Light Rail is still a couple of years out, pedestrians on the trail will be able to use the cafe and outdoor seating as soon as the project is complete.
"They've had a really good year," Kramer said of Nordic Ware. "Baking at home and home goods are doing really well — that's why they are expanding now."
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751