Duncan Brothers have first holiday off…ever

Brothers Ed and Don Duncan sit on the steps of Don’s home this past Sunday. The relaxing weekend was a first for both as neither has had a holiday weekend off since starting at the Flandreau Bakery as young men when their father took over the business. The two officially retired earlier this year, but both say they still wake in the early morning hours and they both still are trying to learn how to best spend so much free time.

“I had the day off, I guess… and the day before off… and the day after off,” Ed Duncan said, very wryly, this past Sunday afternoon. The former co-owner of the legendary Flandreau Bakery was recounting his first holiday off for the Moody County Enterprise, pretty much since he was a child in the 1960’s, as he sat alongside his brother and lifetime business partner, Don.
“Some days they get kind of long because there’s not much to fill them in with. I had to go down to the library and get a couple of books to try and read…I miss it,” he added, of the bakery. “It’s been a long time that I’ve read a book the whole way through.”
Don chuckled.
“It’s boring as hell,” he chimed in. “You have to find something to do, whereas before, we had a routine. We knew what we were doing every minute of every day. Right now, you get up in the morning, you look for the paper, you go and make yourself some toast, and you wonder, ‘What am i going to do today’. Well, you go out and start rearranging the garage or something. You think you’re going to throw something out. Then you talk yourself out of throwing anything away. So you still haven’t done anything,” said Don, with a smile. “You spend a lot of time looking at the TV.”
Ed nearly interrupted, asking if either of us watch Dr. K on YouTube.
“He plays the piano over in England is it? Apparently they have pianos set up in different places over there, like a train station, and he’ll come along and play the piano. Mostly it’s all boogie woogie,” said Ed.
“He’s really good,” he added, with a smile.
Don chuckled again.
If you’ve not yet discovered Dr. K, he is really good. And he does play ‘boogie woogie’. In fact, after looking him up to understand who Ed was talking about, it was hard to shut him off.
But back to why we sat down with the two in the first place.
Brothers Don and Ed Duncan, as most of you know, grew up in the old bakery that now sits quietly along 2nd Avenue in downtown Flandreau. Don and Ed for years had wanted to retire but hoped to see the bakery live on through someone new. They waited for what they hoped was the right opportunity to come along and earlier this year, they sold the bakery to Marty Parsley. Don and Ed stayed on to help with the transition, but by summer, Parsley realized it was more than he could do without the right help.
In late summer, they all agreed, the doors needed to close.
Don and Ed hope that it’s not for good, because for nearly 90 years, and every holiday since, the Flandreau Bakery has been a fabric of the broader Moody County community. After helping their father establish the business, there were few days where either felt right leaving the ovens off or the fryers silent in the back room — the holidays especially.
“All holidays were very busy,” said Ed. “Thanksgiving and Christmas were especially busy, from taking orders, baking the product, putting the orders up to end of sale. We tried to impress upon all the employees that all the holidays were very important, we needed everyone to work.”
The days and nights would run together, Don added. The crew would bake to prepare for the holidays, and company coming to town, almost all night.
“This holiday is definitely different,” said Don. “(There was) Nothing to get ready for anyone else and no stress whatsoever. I can’t say that it was easy because you think about what you could be doing all the time. That is a big adjustment from having a routine that kept you busy all the time, to ‘what can I do with my time now!’”
The brothers miss their team, especially, and their customers — people who are like family to them. They’ve not seen much of anyone since closing the doors. Both still wake in the early morning hours. Both sincerely understand that it’s just going to take some time to adjust.
Given the chance though, both agree they wouldn’t have gone about their lives any other way.
“I am happy to have spent my time at the bakery,” said Ed. “For us, as with most small businesses, it is family that binds everything together.”

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