Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A sweet treasure in downtown Lamberton March 9, 2011

DRIVE INTO ANY SMALL TOWN, U.S.A., and you’ll likely discover a treasure that the locals take for granted.

For instance, in Lamberton, Minnesota, I recently spotted a vintage sign on a beautiful brick building along the town’s main drag. I didn’t have much time to investigate as the guys in the car were anxious to keep moving. But we stopped long enough for me to snap a few photos and peer through the front window and door of Sanger’s Bakery.


This sign, suspended from Sanger's Bakery, first drew me to the building.

Inside, time stood still. An old 7-UP clock hung on the wall behind empty glass bakery cases fronted by one vintage stool (that I could see). Boxes of candy sat on the counter. I almost expected the baker aka ice cream and candy seller to walk into view, open the door and let me inside.

That, of course, was wishful thinking.

The bakery is closed, although men gather here in the morning for coffee, I’m told. You won’t find doughnuts or cinnamon rolls or loaves of freshly-baked bread, just coffee and conversation at the coffee klatsch.

Now, if I had discretionary cash, I’d buy this place, spiff it up a bit, but not too much to ruin its charming character, and reopen the combination bakery, ice cream parlor and candy store.

I could see the possibilities in that weathered sign, in the stunning brick building and in that single, empty stool.


The bakery's front window.

The bakery sits on a corner. I took this building side view through the closed window of the car, after we had driven around the block.

An up-close shot of the lettering on the bakery I wish was still open.

IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING about Sanger’s Bakery or have memories of patronizing this business, please submit a comment. I’d like to learn more about this former bakery which I consider a small-town treasure.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “A sweet treasure in downtown Lamberton”

  1. Bernie Says:

    I love the charm of it all!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      It is charming and I wish I could have gotten inside to shoot some images. Maybe I’ll have to show up some morning at coffee time.

  2. Bernie Says:

    How far is it from you?
    I love the font on the window. Very fun.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I agree–a lovely font.

      Lamberton lies about 2 1/2 hours west of my Faribault home. Lots of tourists drive right by Lamberton on U.S. Highway 14 en route to Walnut Grove, about 10 miles to the west. Walnut Grove is the childhood home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder. I bet few of those motorists ever swing into Lamberton to check out this small town. It’s worth a stop. I need to return in the warmer months and investigate several other interesting buildings I saw there.

  3. Iylene Says:

    Having lived in Lamberton for 30 years, Merlin and I have many memories of Lamberton. Our children used to buy candy from Sanger’s and we bought eggs there also. Bob lived on the edge of town and raised chickens, so he had good eggs for sale all the time. For our kids’ confirmation and graduation parties, we bought dozens of buns from Sanger’s Bakery. When I was funeral chairman at our church I ordered dozens of buns from Bob. Bob’s sister, Millie, helped in the store, so they had the bakery open early in the morning till quite late in the evening – 7 days a week in those years. Memories – they are irreplaceable.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Iylene, thanks for sharing your memories of Sanger’s Bakery. I intend to get inside that building sometime. Seems like Bob may have a few stories to tell also.

  4. Rochelle Says:

    Bob is my great uncle, and Millie (I knew her as Mamie) was my great grandmother. I was really young when she passed away, but I do have a few memories of her. I have been told stories that she used to ‘run away’ from the nursing home that she was moved to when she was in her 90’s, she would head back to the house she lived in with Bob, and would feed the cats.

    I do recall going to the bakery a few times when I was really young, we always got to pick out candy. I remember being fascinated when we got to tour the back where they were making bread.

    Sorry I don’t have really have any stories to add, but I really appreciate you posting these pictures on the internet. They brought back some great memories!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Rochelle, thanks for stopping by Minnesota Prairie Roots to share your memories of the bakery in Lamberton. The vintage sign, the beautiful brick building and the interior impressed me. I hope someday that I can get inside the former bakery.

  5. Liz Says:

    That is my hometown, and trust me, Sanger’s Bakery is not charming on the inside. Its disgusting and dirty. My grandma and I only ate there once, and the food was rancid. There was a clear liquid secreting from the glazed donut I took one bite of and spit out. I do not see any charm in a destructed, run down, neglected building like this. Should have taken pictures of the Creamery instead. That town is a nice place to drive by, but it is so desolate, and so far removed from society, that if you were forced to live there, you would come to resent it. Be glad you could leave.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Liz, I can’t speak to your bakery experience as I’ve never personally been there when the place was open. Other readers did not have your type of experience.

      Seeing “charm” in a building or place is certainly a matter of opinion. I happen to appreciate old signage, old buildings and the past. Next time I’ll check out the creamery as you suggested. Time did not allow me to fully explore Lamberton when I photographed the bakery.

      Small town living is not for everyone, and clearly not for you. I grew up in that part of southwestern Minnesota, on a farm. Although I left for college, a job and then to resettle where my husband lived, I appreciate my rural roots. Perhaps time and distance from Lamberton will allow you to see the good in your hometown rather than what you perceive as only negatives.

  6. Helen Says:

    Bob Sanger died March 30 ,2012
    funeral wed.April 4 th.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you for the information. I read in Bob’s obit in the New Ulm Journal that he was serving coffee until the day before his death. A farewell coffee time at the bakery is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, before the funeral service.

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