Andrej’s famous Iron Range potica now at Tobies

PoticaFor many on Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, Christmas time is potica time. This walnut-based dessert bread from the slavic states of Eastern Europe was long ago embraced by the whole region for its flavor and portability. (Like the pasty, Iron Ranger love foods that require no silverware and fit into the pockets of overalls). In addition to being a subtle, tasty alternative to cheap frosting-slathered bakery fare, potica is a difficult food to make, requiring that each loaf be handmade with a fair amount of expertise.

It’s not cheap, but it’s also not outrageously priced, which makes it a very attractive gift or special occasion option. Since the Iron Range has exported as many working professionals as it has shiploads of iron ore, people all over the state, especially in the Twin Cities, gobble up potica through online sales and at specialty stores.

I noticed this week that one of the Iron Range’s most renowned potica bakers, (and one of the Range’s biggest characters) Jan Gadzo of Andrej’s European Pastry in Chisholm has forged a new business alliance. His potica will now be produced at the famous Tobies Bakery in Hinckley, the well-established “halfway-point” stop off between Duluth and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

From the Candace Renalls story in the Duluth News Tribune:

Production has grown from a holiday-only yield of 2,000 potica loaves to year-round production of 16,000 last year. Since September, 8,000 loaves have been made at Tobies, Gadzo said.

Now 65, he said the production’s move to Hinckley in no way reflects a retirement or semi-retirement on his part.

“I am potica,” he said firmly. “I love this so much. We started almost 30 years ago. When I’m going to give it up is when I’m going to be six feet under.”

He visits the Tobies Bakery regularly, checking on the operation and picking up products for his online sales and for deliveries in northern Minnesota. A distribution service handles the shipments to the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, Illinois, the Dakotas and Michigan.

Jan is pronounced Yahn, by the way. His story of fleeing Cold War Slovakia as an anti-communist dissident is fascinating. He’s working on an auto-biography, but anyone who knows Jan has heard the tale as a colorful oral history.


  1. Is it as good as the hibbing bakery?

  2. There’s a guy from Bovey that makes awesome potica!

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