The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

True Grinnellian: Bill and Andy Molison of Grin City Bakery

Despite the grueling hours and stress of the past year, Bill and Andy Molison still enjoy baking together. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Even at 3 a.m. on a Friday in the middle of a pandemic, donuts still need to be made.

Twice a week, Andy Molison spends 20-hour shifts frying donuts and icing maple bars at the corner of 5th and Main.

His father, Bill Molison, comes in hours before their 7:00 a.m. opening to help open Grin City Bakery and prepare for the incoming flood of customers.

Even before the pandemic hit, the odds were stacked against them. Neither father nor son had a background in running a business, let alone making pastries. Bill Molison has a background in urban planning and civil engineering, while Andy Molison worked in PR and marketing at Coe College for 15 years. How does a webmaster end up with flour on his face at four in the morning? A love of baking, a supportive and enterprising father and a desire to embark on a new adventure, it turns out.

After the bakery had been open for only 10 months, the pandemic hit – a challenge that devastated countless businesses across the nation. Despite this giant hurdle, the small business owners soon realized that their loyal customer base would keep them afloat.

“I didn’t know anything about the donut business,” said the younger Molison. “I just enjoyed baking at home.”

Yearning for the familiar small-town feel and determined for a career change, Andy Molison decided to move back to Grinnell. “I just missed Grinnell and what the town offers me,” he said. Meanwhile, having called Grinnell home for over 40 years, Bill Molison had no plans to leave anytime soon. For him, the town is a “nice little pocket of Americana.”

Encouraged by a survey which indicated that locals wanted a downtown bakery, the two decided to transform a vacant storefront into the sweetshop of their dreams. “Never did I think I would be sitting here on a stainless-steel table in a bakery that I own, but here we are,” smiled Bill.

“Learning the business aspect of it” was the hardest part for Andy, who before had only worked in marketing. “Fortunately there’s a good camaraderie of businesses downtown,” added Bill. “So if we have a question on how to find a good vendor, we can go next door and someone will say ‘here’s what you need to look for.’”

The hours at the bakery are “grueling,” said Andy, who frequently works shifts over twenty hours long. He and Bill hope to add employees soon and said that they don’t plan on operating this way forever.

“It’s always continuing [education] in here for us,” said Bill. “We’re appreciative of all the support both from the local town folks and from all the institutions.”

Before opening Grin City, owner Andy Molison had no professional experience in business or baking. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Alongside the challenges of running a new business, the pandemic hit barely 10 months after opening day. “We had to change direction real quick,” said Andy. After closing fully for a month and then doing pre-orders online, the Molisons reopened the bakery for two days each week for service through a small sliding-glass window on the side of the store.

Despite these great challenges, Bill and Andy approached the task with a particular gusto. “This little confine became our whole office,” said Bill. “But it worked. People kept coming.”

Bill and Andy laughed as they remembered when it was 10 degrees below zero but they had a line around the corner. Indeed, Grinnellians living on campus during the glacial Spring Term 1 may remember lines of students patiently awaiting a scrumptious cinnamon roll or a magnificent maple bar.

With businesses beginning to reopen, these days Bill and Andy feel hopeful about their future. “We’re slowly getting back up to full steam,” said Bill. Both men are excited for when people can again enjoy their baked goodies inside. Bill, a true people-person, added that it will be “nice to interact with the public again.”

“Despite some of the long hours,” said Bill, “we’re enjoying the heck out of it. We just look forward to the future and seeing where this thing goes.”


Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Allison Moore
Allison Moore, Staff Writer
Allison is a fourth-year gender, women's, and sexuality studies major from Granville, Ohio. In her spare time, she can be found crafting, cooking, and cuddling with her kitten, Koda. If you think her mini crossword is too hard, then too bad.
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *