By Carol Stender
OSAKIS, Minn. — Imagine making 1,000 lefse rounds a day or 100,000 of them in a year. That’s the output of the hand-rolled Jacobs Lefse made by Jack and Bonnie Jacobs of Osakis.
Lefse production is only one part of Jacobs Lefse Bakeri in Osakis. Their operation is a Scandinavian success story with humble beginnings.
It started more than 30 years ago when Bernice Jacobs, Jack’s mother, asked her husband, John, to make a round pastry board. She wanted to make lefse but didn’t like using the kitchen counter. John, an avid wood worker, cut a 24-inch circle from particle board.
Friends and family were impressed by the board’s design and requested their own. The couple saw business potential and made more. They took the boards, board covers and Bernice’s fresh baked lefse to area shows and had good sales.
Jack and Bonnie took over the business and moved it from Willmar to Osakis. A separate "House of Jacobs" business in Willmar, operated by Jack’s brother, Dennis, features many of the Scandinavian items.
John died six years ago, but his lefse board and the family’s dedication to the Norwegian delicacy remain popular.
The couple found a building in Osakis’ business district to meet all their operation’s needs, they said.
Jacobs Lefse Bakeri features a store that sells Scandinavian gift items, lefse pastry boards, rolling pins, lefse mix and fresh lefse. Next to the store front is a commercial kitchen where the couple and eight workers hand-roll the lefse.
The boards are now made of a high density fiberboard with melamine finish and are sold in 19- and 24-inch sizes. They’ve also opened sales to an Internet savvy audience through their www.gotlefse.com web site.
Bernice designed the pastry cover and lefse "Cozies." The cozies are two cloths used to cover the lefse rounds during baking.
Bernice and John didn’t have money to patent the boards. Other companies have made similar round pastry boards but Bonnie doesn’t seem bothered by the duplication.
"It’s a form of flattery, isn’t it, when others copy your design?" she said.
Bernice patented her lefse mix in 1983.
Sales increase around the holidays, but the couple says business remains good all year.