The Local Exchange: Ely couple serves homemade granola with side of smiles

Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 11:39 AM CDT
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ELY, MN. (KBJR) - Brian and Andrea Strom are the owners of Brainstorm Bakery in Ely, Minnesota.

Their signature item is a granola mix with a name that speaks for itself.

“I said, ‘You could make cranberry apple granola and call it “Crapola,” and that was literally the entire start of the business,” Brian said.

The business started as a joke, but now the Stroms are serious about making good granola.

Armed with a recipe and a spatula, the duo started selling Crapola at the Ely Farmer’s Market in 2007.

“We had no plan to start a business, we had no funding, no connections, no clue how to even run a business, no experience of any kind,” Brian said.

While they did not have any business experience, they had a tasty recipe and lots of determination.

15 years later, all the granola is still made by hand; an average of 400 pounds of granola every day.

Andrea said it is now a streamlined operation, but it was not always easy.

“I would leave on my lunch break and go help Brian load into one of the kitchens we were using, and then I would go back to work and then go back after work and make granola until like midnight, and then do it all again next week,” she said.

That hard work has paid off.

Their granola is distributed across the Midwest and ships nationwide, but no matter who buys it, the Stroms hope it makes people happy.

Each bag of granola features Brian and Andrea dressed up in costume adding to the message: they just want to help people smile.

“We make people happy, and that makes us happy,” Brian said. “This is like a happiness factory. This is where it comes from.”

For this Ely couple and their rich inventory of puns, making people happy is just as important as making quality granola.

“Ely is a real special place,” Brian said. “It’s a wonderful community. We couldn’t have done this anywhere else. We could’ve done Crapola, but it wouldn’t have turned out like this.”

The summer months are when production at Brainstorm Bakery really ramps up.

Not only does Ely see a huge tourist boom, but the Stroms also make granola for several summer camps in the area.

“I get emotional when I think about the community support; everything from putting our granola on the shelves in the grocery store that happened in Ely,” Brian said. “Everybody from the grocery store to the post office, shipping and receiving, just a lot of support.”

Brainstorm Bakery is located at 402 East Sheridan Street. You can also find them online.

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