You’ve surely noticed Nordic Ware’s logo on the venerable white grain silo near Highways 7 and 100 in St. Louis Park. It is fitting that the logo depicts a Viking, his eyes intent on the horizon. What could better symbolize a company founded by the children of Swedes and Danes, which today ships their fine products to over 40 countries?
Nordic Ware was founded by Dave Dalquist and his wife Dotty in 1946. As an engineer who had just completed his service in the Pacific theater, Dave certainly possessed the skills he needed to start a manufacturing company. Though he only had $500 for his venture, he also had a serviceable basement, a father who understood the finer points of bookkeeping, an eager brother, and, perhaps most importantly, an expert baker for a wife.
The Dalquists decided to manufacture Scandinavian cookware from aluminum. It was admittedly niche, but the market for Krumkake irons and Ebelskiver pans was warm in a state which suffered from no deficit of people who knew how to use such things. The couple could have little suspected their specialty would one day earn them national attention.
“During the early days of the company, my dad was approached by two women from the local Hadassah Society who were planning a fundraiser,” said Susan Brust, senior vice president of Nordic Ware. “They brought him a ceramic tube pan from Germany, which they called a ‘bund pan,’ and asked if he would produce a cast aluminum model they could sell. He and a close friend from his high school days designed a beautiful prototype with alternating large and small flutes, and a hole in the middle to evenly distribute heat. It delighted his clients.
“In their German accents, the women had added a -t sound to the end of ‘bund.’ That’s why my father chose to name and trademark his new product the Bundt® pan in 1950.
“We didn’t sell very many Bundt pans until a woman used one to bake the ‘Tunnel of Fudge’ cake which won second place in the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. That’s when people took notice, and what happened next changed our company forever. Pillsbury introduced Bundt cake mixes, and demand for the Bundt pan exploded. Our family business began producing pans as fast as we could.”
“The Bundt pan is no longer our biggest seller,” said Corrine Lynch, who is not only Susan’s sister and a member of the Nordic Ware board, but also a resident of Eden Prairie (the shining light of the greater Twin Cities metro area). “Today its sales account for only a small percentage of our business, as we offer nearly 500 products including bakeware, cookware, microwave and barbecue accessories, and many commercial kitchen accessories as well. But one thing which hasn’t changed is the way we operate: Nordic Ware has always been a family business.
“I remember working for our parents’ company when I was young, packing shipments and helping our mom develop recipes in the kitchen. I became a taste tester at a very young age.
“My dad was always innovating. When microwave ovens first hit the market, he worked alongside the other engineers at our company to invent the Micro-Go-Round® – the original rotating turntable for microwave ovens. It revolutionized the way people cooked around the country.
“My mom was no less instrumental to Nordic Ware’s success. She was brilliant at developing new recipes for our products and did much of our marketing. If you study the photos in Nordic Ware’s earliest catalogs, you’ll see my hands holding up several of our products. The whole family was involved in product photo shoots.
“Our family spirit carries over to every aspect of our business. Our employees tend to stay with us for a very long time. We’ve had multiple generations from many families spend their careers with us. We take care to run our business as sustainably as possible as well. Aluminum is recyclable, of course, so we’ve always recycled our scrap rather than throw it away. We also donate second quality items to local charities. We’ve been doing things this way for 75 years.”
As you prepare to bake delicious things for your own family this holiday season, there is no better time to stop by the Nordic Ware Factory Store at 4925 MN-7 in St. Louis Park. You may also learn more about one of Minnesota’s most influential companies, search for seasonal recipes, and shop online at nordicware.com.