JENKINS – Michael Baumann and Sara Lokstad may have only been to the Jenkins area in the last 10 years, but they brought with them a 72-year tradition passed down through the Lokstad family.
They make rolling pins.
“My great-uncle started it in 1950,” Lokstad said. “He started by selling a rolling pin to a neighbor and from there the business grew.”
“He kind of modeled it on the one his mother brought back from Norway,” Baumann said. “Sara’s family emigrated, I believe in 1888, from Norway to Canada and down. He made one (the neighbour) and she absolutely loved it. Farming was hard so he decided to put family farmland in government programs and making rolling pins as a business.”
John Lokstad had been a machinist in the navy. He used his experience to build his own machines. He made a sander that would put the correct, smooth bevel on its handles; a machine for cutting and shaping the handles and the wooden dowels that held them; a weighted press to put the handles in place permanently; various woodturning devices; and perhaps the most creative was the tool he constructed from a crank turntable spring and a saw on a track.
This tool is used to make hatched rolling pins. When the saw is running, the person using it turns a crank, which moves the saw along the rail. Then the turntable spring advances the pin one notch, where the next groove can be cut in a precise pattern, one line at a time all the way around the rolling pin.
At his home in Newfolden, Minnesota, John has made four varieties of rolling pins – smooth rolling pins, grooved rolling pins, hatched rolling pins for lefse and hard rolling pins with aggressive hatching.
John ran the business for many years.
The company has built a reputation over these years, being featured in newspapers and magazines. The company was even recognized alongside giants like General Mills and Pillsbury at one time as a leader in Minnesota’s industry.
John built it and hired workers, even though his store was barely bigger than a shed, but smaller than a garage. It was a labor of love for the founder.
“I think he was almost 88,” Lokstad said. “He did it until he couldn’t take it anymore with his health. He loved it and he brought people in from all over.”
John had no children of his own, so when he died in the early 90s, David Lokstad, Sara’s father, took over the business.
“He ran it for many years even though he was a busy farmer,” Lokstad said.
In 2017, the opportunity to pass the torch presented itself for the first time.
“My mother contacted us because my father had health issues and they didn’t want the company to go bankrupt,” Lokstad said. “They were thinking of Mike, because after we moved here, Mike stayed home with our kids and they were going from first grade to kindergarten.”
Baumann had worked at Best Buy for many years, and Lokstad worked in healthcare. Sometime after moving to Jenkins, their daughter was diagnosed with cancer, so Baumann stayed home to help care for her.
At first it seemed like the perfect time to take over the family rolling pin business, but by the time the shop was established and all the equipment was ready, it was 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic had all messed up.
“We were online for a little while,” Lokstad said. “In 2021, we really started to take our feelers out a bit more.”
The slower start had its advantages, because like the company itself, they had inherited the original craft tools.
“There were no textbooks for me,” Baumann said. “It’s all done by hand. Having a slow first year was like a learning curve and it was a blessing.”
After all this time, the pins are rolling again. Their booth was visible along the Paul Bunyan Trail in July at Stars and Stripes Days and Bean Hole Days events in Pequot Lakes, as well as various other festivals and craft shows.
This weekend, September 10 and 11, they will be at the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair.
“We do a lot of shows,” Baumann said. “This year we had a lot of shows. We had 16 shows. We are doing shows now until the end of the year. We have big shows coming up.”
There are also online sales via Lokstadproducts.com and Etsy. However, they try not to be too busy, because if they use the equipment too much, something could break, and parts for homemade equipment cannot be found only at a local hardware store.
“We’re still learning, but that’s what I love,” Lokstad said.
The couple added items to the business. Some additions were due to demand. Others must ensure that no material is wasted.
In the case of a rolling pin that develops a crack, for example, the bad part is milled flat and those pins can become centerpieces with a place for candles or other decorations. Some damaged or cracked rolling pins become other rolling pins.
“If we don’t (make centerpieces), I turn them into smaller diameter rolling pins,” Baumann said. “I don’t make a lot of them because we sell about six a year. We’re known for our large diameter pins.”
Most Lokstad pins are three inches in diameter. Many commercially produced pins, and those made by competitors, are about two and a half inches in diameter.
Their larger pins are, again, made to preserve tradition, although there is another reason.
“It’s like a wheel,” Baumann said. “The larger the diameter, the easier it rolls. Your rolling pin should still do some of the work for you.”
Recently, they have added to their merchandise coasters cut from scrap metal, as well as shirts and aprons. One of their biggest additions to date are their lefse sticks.
Manufacturers from Lefse make up a large part of Lokstad’s clientele. One of their pins is specially designed to say the least, and their shirts and aprons advertise that use. So it’s only natural that they would eventually add lefse spinning sticks to their product line.
Company roots are extremely important to Baumann and Lokstad. In a world where few people even remember what hard tack is, Lokstad makes sure there are pins to do it with.
“We are one of the few remaining hard pin manufacturers in the United States,” Baumann said. “Most companies have stopped making them because they don’t sell a lot of them. We continue to make them because of the heritage and the tradition. We want to make sure that the tradition and the heritage continue to passed down from generation to generation.”
It’s a big part of the business. Not only do they still make John Lokstad’s classic Scandinavian line of rolling pins, but each pin also comes with the Lokstad family recipes for potato lefse, flatbread, sugar cookies and lefse hardanger wrapped around them.
The heritage of not only rolling pins, but also traditional lefse is so important to them that at some point Lokstad Products may have a range of handmade lefse for sale to preserve this history as the population who makes lefse, even locally, is getting old.
“It’s important to pass on these traditions,” Baumann said. “If we don’t pass them on, they get lost.”
One day Baumann would like to expand by hiring staff and possibly making duplicates of his machines so he can either increase production or retire the original machines while they are still running.
It would also make it easier to find spare parts, because the machinist who helps make the new machines could make new parts from the original blueprints.
- 2 cups mashed potatoes
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon shortening
- 1 ½ cup flour
Mix all the ingredients except half the flour. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it develop in the fridge overnight.
Add half the flour when rolling out the dough very thinly with a pre-cut rolling pin. The dough can be shaped into a long roll and then cut into pieces large enough to fit the size of the cooking surface.
Cook both sides until light brown on a hot stove, deep plate or griddle. Use a long stick to help you turn left.
Travis Grimler is a weekly editor for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He can be reached at 218-855-5853 or [email protected]