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Food & Drink

The Highs and Lows of Rescuing a Beloved Bakery

Last month, YoYo Donuts' owners stepped up to save Thirsty Whale. It's been a fun challenge, but it hasn't been a piece of cake.

Instagram: @thirstywhalebakery|

Alise and Luke McGregor rescued Thirsty Whale from closing last month.

The past two months have been a whirlwind for Thirsty Whale Bakery.

On December 3, the sweets spot announced that it was closed effective more or less immediately—if you'd placed an order through December 23, it would be fulfilled, but after that? Tough cookies. "It's been extremely hard to keep up with the economic changes and I do not see a way for us to continue to operate the same way as we have," owner Kyle Baker wrote on Instagram, to an immediate outpouring of support from their community in north Minneapolis and beyond.

Then, about a week after announcing the closure, there was another Instagram update: Thirsty Whale had been purchased by Alise and Luke McGregor, the folks behind Minnetonka’s YoYo Donuts, and would reopen in mid-December, just before the holidays.

"It's funny, when I reflect back on it, sometimes it feels like it's been a really long time, but actually it's only been about month," Alise McGregor tells Viraluae. "We're still figuring things out, getting things going."

YoYo is known for its peanut-free donuts ("and we do donuts very well"), but for a while they'd been thinking about adding more cakes and pies. So when the McGregors found out about Thirsty Whale's closure, and saw the outcry from the neighborhood, it just felt right. They called up Baker, and a few days later, they had a plan to purchase the bakery, keeping the aptly named former owner in the kitchen while they oversaw the day to day operations.

Now, the thing is, "We weren't prepared or planning to purchase the Thirsty Whale," McGregor chuckles. Which is why the last month or so has had its own yoyo-like ups and downs: The bakery closed, and then they reopened it, and then there was the holiday rush, and then staff members were out with COVID. She describes it as one of those situations where you're teetering—you don't want to close your doors if you don't have to, but you don't want to have them open if you can't execute.

Oh, and if you've been wondering what's going on with their social media accounts—why they keep disappearing? It's not intentional; for whatever reason, when Baker transferred ownership of the profiles, they started randomly deactivating.

It's been a challenge trying to set up their processes in a way that makes their jobs easy (and in such a way that they don't find themselves in turn closing abruptly down the road). McGregor says that finally, last week, the operation started to feel streamlined, and the transitional tweaking they've done is feeling more natural. "You just have to get through those things and know that, hey, it'll be fine," she says.

After playing with the hours a bit, they've got those set (7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday to Sunday), and the decorating team is locked in. A new website launched last week, delivery is available to North and beyond, and the team redecorated the windows with some YoYo-meets-Thirsty-Whale branding.

In theory, this'll be as hard as it gets—and there have been plenty of really joyous moments, too. The McGregors have been spending a lot of time at their new north Minneapolis bakery, talking with folks who pop in to pick up a cake or snag a donut on their way to work.

"We're hearing from people who have said, 'You did my wedding, and my baby shower, and my first birthday,' so there's a long history there with people celebrating," McGregor says, adding that they've experienced tremendous grace from customers who are just happy to have Thirsty Whale treats available for the foreseeable future.

"The customers have been excited, the community has been amazing," she continues, "and it's just great to see how many people love the Thirsty Whale."

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