After 18 years at Positively 3rd Street Bakery, Dan Proctor doesn’t refer to himself as CEO, Chef, or Manager. He says: “I’m a worker. We all have to mop the floor… if you don’t, you don’t know how messy it gets.” Founded in 1983, Positively 3rd Street Bakery is a worker-owned cooperative that offers healthy bread and cookies at affordable prices.
The breads and cookies are not certified organic, but care and attention is taken with each ingredient. “We use organic products when we can, but it’s a balance between organic and affordable,” says Proctor. Canola oil is the only oil used; molasses and honey from Bar Bell Bee Ranch are used as sweeteners instead of sugar. All of the flour comes from Great River Organic Milling, which sources grains from Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.
In 1983, Positively 3rd Street Bakery purchased the building from New Haven Bakery, a Seventh-Day Adventist bakery. The location — one block down from 4th Street and a few blocks up from Bob Dylan Way — gave rise to the bakery’s “Positively 4th Street“-inspired name. That said, Proctor notes that the song’s bitter lyrics don’t really relate to the bakery’s sweet product and mission. Products are a mix of old and new: Recipes from New Haven Bakery still remain, but the menu has seen a number of fresh additions over the years. Dan’s Macaroons, Thunder Cookies, and Mocha Madness Cookies are baked up daily alongside sour dough bread that is made from a two decade-old starter. The Thunder Cookie, a cross between three peanut butter cookies, a bowl of oatmeal, and a chocolate chip cookie, is a local favorite that is rich and hearty enough to take the place of a noontime meal.
“We make a lot of sliced, sandwich-ready bread,” says Proctor. Using recycled banana boxes, bread is shipped to the Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth as well as to Seward Co-op, the Mississippi Markets, Hard Times Cafe, and many other locations. “We make the best bread for the price,” Proctor says, and “a lot of co-ops also buy from us because we are a co-op.” The 12 current owners are given equity as part of their compensation. Upon leaving the bakery, an owner is paid for what he owns and, because he is no longer an owner, he loses his right to supervise. “Being self-managed is interesting,” says Proctor. “Most education systems, if they teach people to manage, teach students to manage others but not themselves.” Using group meetings, the bakery makes decisions about scheduling, building improvements, recipes, conflicts, and donations to nonprofits. Proctor says the company has made large reductions to their advertising budget by collectively deciding to use donations as a way to advertise and tell people about their products. “We can’t support everything, but we try to support as much as we can,” says Proctor.
For Proctor, Positively 3rd Street Bakery is more than a job — it’s a part of the community. Each Sunday the bakery reaches out to the community by giving away free cookies to kids and offering “distressed bread” (bread that is four days old and put into the freezer) at $1.25, reduced from a regular price of $2.50, for a one-pound loaf. “We have people lined up out the door,” says Proctor. He adds: “I believe that bread should be baked at home, and I wish people would… but they are busy, and that’s why we’re here.”
BEST BET: Thunder Cookie
Positively 3rd Street Bakery
Bakery in Duluth, MN
1202 E 3rd St
Duluth, MN 55805
Paul Steklinski (Since 1983)
Dan Proctor (Since early 80s and continuously since early 90s)
Dave Sorensen (Since early 90s and continuously for two years)
Jesse Harth (5 years)
Samantha Goodall (5 years)
Michael Latsch (4 years)
Rick Moes (4 years)
Kalyn Youngblom (4 years)
Teresa Whittet (3 years)
Jennie Lennick (1 year)
Jeff Greensmith (1 year)
Laura Greensmith (1 year)
Jay Newkirk (1 month; not yet full member)