When life hands you lemons...
HURON — When Banner Engineering shuttered its Huron operation earlier this summer, the workers who were still there faced moving forward in their lives without a job that some of them had had for several years.
For one Wolsey woman, leaving Banner opened up the possibility to do something that she had always enjoyed, but now could consider doing for a little bit of income.
“I was at Banner for 10 years this month,” says Toni Miedema, who was an electronics assembler for the company. “They told us officially on March 8 that we were closing, but you could kind of tell. It was kind of expected.” Miedema noted that the employees had noticed a operation moving to a different part of the plant, with nothing coming in to replace it. “And when someone would quit, they weren’t replaced,” she said. “You could tell.”
Her last day was Aug. 4.
For Miedema, it was a second time of having the rug pulled out from beneath her feet. She was part of the Raven Industries workforce in Huron when that company closed its facility in town.
The Banner closure left her at a bit of a crossroads. She was nearing the age when she could retire, but at the same time felt she wanted to do something.
“Banner offered to transfer employees to either Aberdeen or Minneapolis,” she said, “which didn’t really work for me.” She noted that she has lived in the area most of her life. Her children and grandchildren are close by, so moving to another city wasn’t in the cards.
“I have always like baking and sewing,” she said. “And I had gotten an embroidering sewing machine during COVID and liked making things with it. So I thought, why not do something that you enjoy and see what happens?”
She christened her business “Bake and Sew.” Since making the announcement in early September, Miedema has been consistently busy. She said that she really enjoys baking cookies and has taken some special orders for customers, while also offering muffins and brownies for sale.
Photo courtesy Bake and Sew - A platter of freshly baked cookies.
“Chocolate chip cookies are probably my favorite,” she said. “I can probably whip up a batch in my sleep.”
The sewing part of Bake and Sew involves embroidery work on hot pads and tea towels, as well as greeting cards that she purchases and finishes with her sewing machine.
“Many times, if I don’t have a special order, I will decide to bake something and toss it on Facebook and see if anyone is interested.”
She said that so far, her word-of-mouth approach has been promising. “I really like dropping off cookies,” she said with a broad smile. “Especially if it is some of my former co-workers. It is great to see them and to have them enjoy what I have baked.” She recalled a recent cookie drop off, where she met the husband of a woman who has ordered some cookies. “He said, ‘So you must be the cookie lady,’ so maybe I am the cookie lady.”
In July of 2022, Miedema and her brother Jon lost their mother, Corrine Kahre. While clearing out her mom’s home, Miedema came across her mom’s stand mixer. “I had never had a stand mixer,” she said.
Photo courtesy Bake and Sew - A sampling of Miedema’s embroidered greeting cards.
“Everything I made had been done by hand or with a stand mixer. I wasn’t going to take it, but my daughter and daughter in law convinced me that I should. So now it is on my counter at home. It is really nice to mix up a batch of cookies!”
She said that she got the baking bug when she attended a 4H class at the Presbyterian Church in Wolsey when she was young. “It was a basic baking class,” she said. “Reading a recipe, measuring ingredients; things like that. I really like it.”
She said her mom enjoyed baking as well.
“I think at this point, this is what I will likely do for as long as I want to,” she said. “I get to do what I enjoy doing and have the freedom to go and see the grandkids’ activities…and maybe get them into the kitchen! I have found happiness. I needed something to keep busy and now I am doing something I enjoy and you can eat your mistakes!”
Find Miedema on Facebook by searching Bake and Sew.