An interview with John and Jan Lindstrom, owners of Lindstrom's Danish Maid Bakery in Astoria.

1132 Commercial St., Astoria

(503) 325-3657

Inside this Astoria institution, you'll find glass cases filled with mouth watering baked goods of all types - cookies, doughnuts, Danish pastries, cakes. Loaves of fresh-baked bread sit on shelves behind the counter. In back, a large, white oven and an 80-quart mixer that "still runs like" a top, have both been in service here for more than half a century.

How did you get into the baking business?

John: "The first thing, I was a big kid and I liked to eat. I started cooking and baking at home. My Mom took the time and she explained it to me. I had four brothers and two sisters, so we had a pretty large family so I could experiment with.

"When I was roughly 15, I got my first job in a bakery. It was my love for baking ... I would walk to work two miles through the woods ... to be at work at 4 in the morning. I'd work 'till 8 o'clock to be at school.

"The bakers told me that there was an opening here, so I applied for that. I was a junior in high school then - 17 years old. It would've been 1970 when I first came here.

"It was called Jones' Bakery. Harold Jones, he's the one that really got it going. Carl Maxwell, he bought it from Harold Jones ... His wife was an actual Danish maid - not m-a-d-e. A lot of people, they really don't understand that."

Jan: "Neither one of us have any Dane in us."

John: "Then I spent a little time in the Navy. After serving in the military, there wasn't any jobs here, so I went to work for Bumble Bee Seafoods, and I didn't really like that. In 1974, there was another opening ... I worked for the same guy until I bought it on January first of 1986."

Jan: "We've had it for 17 years now."

Who are your customers?

John: "Local people."

Jan: "Our local people are great."

John: "They're the ones that are in here at the same time everyday. They're the ones that keep you going. ... There still is customers that we see in here every day that were in here 30 years ago."

Jan: "It's nice when people come in and you can call them by name and you know pretty much what they like to have in the morning."

What are some of the things you make?

John: "Everybody knows. You got your doughnuts, Danish and your cookies, breads. If somebody comes in and wants something special, we're gonna try and do it, no matter what. And cakes of course ... for all occasions.

"I'm known best for my Tom and Jerry Batter. It's gone as far as Alaska. People pay more to have it shipped. It was started in the 1940s by Harold Jones. You put rum, brandy or whiskey in it. It's seasonal. After Christmas, it doesn't sell.

"We (also) do schnecken ... it's an old German pastry and not many bakeries make anymore."

How early do you get here each morning?

John: "I'm always here by 2. We open our doors at 4 in the morning. What you have to give up for it in your life ... you have to give all your night life up. Period. You have to have your heart in it. If you don't love baking ..."

What do you enjoy about this work?

John: "I put in long hours and my day goes so fast because there's so much to do. It is not a boring job. For a relatively small place, we do a heckuva business out of it. There's no such thing as an eight-hour day at a bakery for an owner. Period.

What challenges has your business faced?

John: "The biggest downfall that I've really seen over the past few years is ingredients. Where we used to deal with five major companies, now there's like two ... and if there's a product they're not selling enough of, they discontinue it. That's probably the biggest challenge."

How old are your recipes?

John: "My formulas are dated from like the '40s to '50s. I don't use preservatives. I will not use such things as lard or any of that stuff.

"We are mostly a scratch bakery. It's not a whole bunch of mixes. Everything is made right here on the premises."

How many people work here?

John: "I've got three kids they all work here and we've just got one more now."

Jan: "And you and I."

John: "The six of us all together ... To have a wife that stands behind me - it's not easy to work with a partner all the time, but she's a saint to put up with it."

How much volume do you do?

John: "That's really tough for me to say ... Between the sugar and the flour - tons of weight. The smallest batch of bread that we make is 24 loaves. I know you're going through a ton of flour a week and probably half again in sugars. You could get into butters and shortenings, as to what a guy uses, and it's actually atrocious."

-Benjamin Romano

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