Hanisch Bakery & Coffee Shop, located in Red Wing, Minn., may be a small-town bakery but its owner has a big heart and has found a way to spark joy that is spreading far beyond his own community.
When owner Bill Hanisch decided to bake cakes for all of the local high school’s graduating seniors and share a post about it on the bakery’s social media, he couldn’t imagine the outpouring of support his effort would ignite.
Bill and his staff set out to make about 200 cakes for the seniors at Red Wing High School when their graduation ceremony was canceled, but soon people were calling from surrounding communities wanting to donate money to make more cakes to give to graduates. Local businesses have stepped up as well, purchasing large quantities of cakes to give to graduating seniors in towns near the bakery.
As of this writing, Bill estimates his staff is making about 800 cakes for 12 schools in the surrounding communities.
“The whole graduation thing really got to me,” said Bill who fondly remembers the pomp and circumstance of his own graduation. “I have lifelong friends from high school who I walked across the stage with, but whose own kids will not be able to have that same experience.”
A sampling of some of the cakes that Hanisch Bakery is donating to area high school graduates in his hometown of Red Wing. The cakes, decorated in the schools’ colors, are made with Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Cake Mix.
He adds it really was an easy decision to help and do something good during the pandemic, particularly when he recognized the bakery was facing a slower season due to restaurant closures that fuel his wholesale business on top of cancelled weddings and grad parties.
“It’s all been amazing,” said Bill. “What started as a way to lift the spirits of the community and keep our staff busy for the coming months ahead has morphed into something much bigger.” Bill’s story has been featured in several local media outlets in the past few weeks as well as CNN.
More than just a bakery
Hanisch’s is located in the heart of Red Wing in a space that has been occupied by a bakery for decades, dating back to the1920’s. Known as Pirius Bakery from 1944 until 1972, the bakery was purchased by the Braschler family and operated as Braschler’s Bakery for 35 years until Bill purchased the business in 2007.
Hanisch Bakery is known for its specialty cakes, homemade breads as well as a wide variety of donuts and pastries—all made fresh every day.
For the past 13 years, Bill has operated his business with the same commitment to quality and customer service as his predecessors, making the bakery a big source of hometown pride. Bill is also greatly admired within the community as he is known to step up when there is a need, whether it’s creating specialty baked goods to raise money for breast cancer awareness or supporting local youth sports.
Some may say he is a bit of a super hero.
Known for his gregarious personality, Bill even has a “larger than life” version of himself— an 8-foot mascot named “Bunman” who can be seen around town spreading goodwill or saving the day from any type of confectionery crisis.
“Billy is a great guy with such a generous spirit,” said Greg Wagner, sales account executive on the General Mills Foodservice Ingredient Team who has worked with Bill since the bakery’s beginnings. “I am not surprised one bit that he would find a way to give back to the community and bring joy to so many during these challenging times. He is truly one-of-a-kind.”
If you want to get an idea of Bill’s fun personality, check out this video of him one Minnesota winter morning when he experienced Thunder Snow.
Billy proudly boasts a zombie version of the Pillsbury Doughboy on his arm, which he had done on a trip to Las Vegas many years ago. In addition to being a super fan of the iconic Doughboy, Bill says, “I am basically a zombie. I live a baker’s life and don’t get much sleep.”