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Retailer Hits New Record With Graduation Cake Sales

MINOT, N.D. — Marketplace Food & Drug’s cake department set a record this graduation season, turning out more cakes in more varieties than ever before.

Both the number of cakes that went out, and the number of dollars that came in easily topped last year’s, and in fact, bested all the years before it, cake department manager Nyla Stromberg told SN.

“It [the rush] starts around May 1, with confirmations, and house parties, and then graduations, and doesn’t let up until after the big graduation week, the last week in May,” Stromberg said. “Then, we start right in on wedding cakes.”

It’s that last week in May that has Stromberg and her team working literally around the clock. There’s a team, usually led by Stromberg, that comes in at 5 in the morning, then another at 7, another at 11:30, and then the night team takes over at 8 in the evening.

Marketplace Food & Drug’s cake department came up with an elaborate  color-coded system to make sure customers receive the cake on the right day.
Marketplace Food

“We have 11 full-time decorators in addition to myself,” Stromberg pointed out.

Business heats up so much toward the last half of May that Stromberg rents a refrigerated semi trailer that gets parked out back. This year it arrived May 14.

“It’s necessary because we don’t have space enough in the department. We’re talking about hundreds of cakes,” Stromberg said.

Temporary employees hired for the rush period, help keep things going efficiently as customers come to pick up their cakes.

“We have grocery racks set up inside on both sides of the trailer, and the cake boxes are color coded, and marked with large numerals to match them to the customer’s receipt,” Stromberg said.

Over the years, Stromberg has developed a system that involves color codes for the stage the cakes are in — not iced yet, iced, decorated — and ultimately to designate the day the cake is to be picked up.

“Blue may mean Friday pick-up, red for Saturday, lime green for Sunday. Then within those stacks, the individual boxes bear a number and the customer’s name. When they pay at the counter, they get a receipt with their order number on it. They bring that out to the truck and we match the number, and the name.”

In the midst of pick-ups, and more decorating going on, Stromberg said proudly that her department never turns down an order. If a customer came in or called in his order the day before he wanted it, even on the busy graduation weekend, he’d get his order taken care of.

“If someone wants a regular birthday cake, or a cake they choose out of the case and want additional decoration, we’ll do that. We don’t stop our regular, everyday business just because we’re decorating an amazing number of graduation cakes.”


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Aside from the sheer number of cakes produced, there is a huge variety of custom designs. This year, one that stood out was a sheet cake with a football coming out of it, surrounded by stars. Another was a cake that was decorated with ornate curtains opening onto a stage. That one was for a theater arts grad.

Photo cakes, too, are still in style here.

Commenting on the freshness of the cakes, Stromberg said all the cakes made in-store are baked and decorated within two days of pick-up.

In this small town (pronounced MY-not) of 40,000 to 50,000 people, there are an amazing number of graduates from community and business colleges and a central high school that draws students from miles away. The high school graduation class alone has at times hit 600.

More news: Cake Craft at IDDBA

A few years ago, Stromberg convinced the owners of Bemidji, Minn.-based Marketplace Food & Drug that the cake business was so booming at its flagship store here that they should develop a separate cake department. And they did, with Stromberg as the manager. Now, just in a few weeks, the family-owned company will open a second store across town, with its own cake department.

“I’ve been given the honor of training a team there,” Stromberg said, as she commended her team at the original store.

“My joy is in pleasing our customers, but also in seeing these girls grow in talent and experience.”

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