Montana has a rich Scandinavian heritage, dating back to the first waves of settlers attracted to the wide open eastern plains in the late 19th century. Today that legacy is represented by the rich cultural traditions carried on by families across the state, and by Montana success stories like Grandrud’s Lefse; one of only a handful of traditional Lefse making businesses left in the country.
Granrud’s Lefse Shack is located in the tiny community of Opheim, Montana; just south of the Canadian border in the northeast corner of the state. In 1977, original owners Evan and Myrt Granrud started making the traditional Norwegian flatbread in the garage of their home with the intention of having plenty for themselves, friends, and family. When word spread that they were making the delicious (but time and labor-intensive) treat in bulk, local churches and community groups started buying up every batch they could make. As current owner Twyla Anderson recounts:
“Evan and Myrt were literally staying up all hours of the night rolling out lefse to keep up with demand. They knew they had enough customers to make a business out of it, but they also knew they’d have to find ways to become more efficient.”
So, Evan put the creativity and ingenuity that came from living in a small community removed from the nearest retail centers to use, designing and building machines that automated the traditional rolling process. Soon Myrt and Evan were making enough Lefse to expand their business and hire employees; becoming one of the largest employers in the region. Their success also attracted the attention of a national food manufacturer that offered to buy the business and move it out-of-state in 1995. In order to prevent losing such a significant player in the local economy, Northern Electric Cooperative of Opheim bought Granrud’s and continued operations.
“Opehim is remote, but the people here are the absolute best. Everyone works hard to get the job done, and that sense of camaraderie is what makes it a pleasure to come to work every day during the season”
- Twyla Anderson, Owner Grandrud's Lefse
In 2005, managers Twlya Anderson and Alice Redfield realized they could combine their extensive knowledge of Granrud’s business operations and lefse production to grow the company. They bought the business from the co-op, and immediately set to making changes that made Granrud’s Lefse more efficient and productive. In 2006-2007, the duo worked with Dale Dietrich of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center to streamline their operations and production process, including developing a computerized monitoring system and a foot pedal that allows two people to run four machines.
Optimized efficiency and productivity is particularly important given that the peak lefse making season for Granrud’s is really only five months long. As Twyla points out, keeping up with demand has been Granrud’s only significant challenge to date:
“We have customers in all 50 states, and distributors in North Dakota and Montana…we’ve optimized every aspect of our production and we could still be selling way more than we can make.”
Today, Granrud’s employs 10 people during their peak five month season when they do about 95% of business for the year. While intense at times, that schedule allows Twyla, Alice and their workers to continue farming and ranching for the rest of the year. For Twyla, that strong tie to Granrud’s employees and the community is the most significant advantage to running a Montana success story in tiny Opheim:
“Opehim is remote, but the people here are the absolute best. Everyone works hard to get the job done, and that sense of camaraderie is what makes it a pleasure to come to work every day during the season.”
Even though Opheim may be off the beaten path, people from all over Montana and the nation can order Granrud’s lefse any time of year at Grandrud's Lefse Shack.