PINE RIVER -- Marlys Swenson, Pine River, has been baking pies, cookies and other treats for years for her 14 children, 36 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Now everyone in Pine River can justifiably call her Grandma, too.
For the past two years, Swenson has performed all of the baking at Jerry's SuperValu in Pine River. While her bars, cookies and homemade breads typically sell out not long after she sets them on the table, Swenson is perhaps best known for her homemade pies.
In fact, Swenson's pies have their own brand name: Grandma's Up North Pies, named after the restaurant she owned for more than two years in Pine River. She began offering slices of her pies at the restaurant and sold about 150-200 pies on holidays.
Swenson, 71, began baking pies alongside Mary Etta Durham at the former Uptown Bakery in Pequot Lakes about 10 years ago. Durham is best known for her pies, Mary Etta's Pies, sold locally and in select grocery stores and restaurants throughout the state and the Brainerd lakes area.
But Swenson doesn't consider herself to be in competition with Durham. She has developed her own following in the Pine River area, and has her own niche market with her smaller six-inch pies. Swenson's homemade pies are both regular- and smaller-sized, with the smaller pies available for customers, like senior citizens, who don't want to buy an entire pie.
Swenson makes her own pie crusts and uses vegetable shortening in her pies, instead of lard. She said she peels her own apples for her apple pies and only uses yellow Delicious apples.
Swenson makes all types of pies, including berry and creme pies. She can be found baking six days a week at the grocery store.
Marlys Swenson is in charge of the baking at Jerry's SuperValu in Pine River. Swenson, the mother of 14, has become known for her brand of pies, Grandma's Up North Pies. (Dispatch Photos by Jodie Tweed)
"I make anything and everything," said Swenson with a laugh. "Anything they want."
Swenson said people have told her she should open another restaurant, but she's content selling her pies and baked goods at the grocery store.
"I'm too old," said Swenson. "If I were 10 years younger I'd think about it. But I'm too old. I like it here and I like the people. I'm going to stay as long as I'm able."
John Bueckers, bakery/deli manager at Jerry's SuperValu, said the bakery business has doubled at the grocery store since Swenson began baking there.
"It's just wonderful," said Bueckers. "In the summertime, it's not uncommon for ladies from the Cities to call to pick up a pie on their way to their cabins. It's (Swenson's pies) become a signature item for the store."
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