by Scott Neuffer

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December 11, 2012
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Popular bakery charting new course

Those doughy, thickly swirled homemade cinnamon rolls that have become small-town famous in recent years represent one family's hard work: hours and hours of painstaking labor; thousands and thousands of dollars.

Doug Russell, his wife Kim, and their many children, along with other employees, have made Russell's Mercantile a household name in Carson Valley ever since opening their bakery and restaurant in Minden eight years ago.

But now, with children grown and following their own dreams, the Russells have decided to do something different. After filling Thanksgiving orders last month, they closed their storefront.

In a phone interview last week, Doug Russell, 54, said business was still going strong, but overhead had become just too much.

Case in point: the lease was up on their Minden suite, which was costing them $2,800 a month, Russell said.

"Add on utilities, and that's another $1,000 a month, along with employee costs, taxes and permits, and it just goes on and on and on," he said. "But we did it. We did pay all those things, and now we want something left for retirement."

Russell said the family's popular food products will still be available - just in a different format. He emphasized that their business is not going under. To the contrary, he said Thanksgiving sales doubled this year.

"A lot of people feel like we closed, and we haven't," he said. "The last day before Thanksgiving, we baked 200 pies: double the revenue that we did the year before. We're choosing to make a change to continue doing what we love doing.

"My only overhead will be me, gas, and my car. It's pretty exciting."

For Russell, doing what he loves revolves around the oven. With the new direction of his business, rebranded as Russell's Mercantile Personal Culinary Services, he plans not only on catering special events, but hosting cooking classes and dinner parties. Since he no longer leases a commercial kitchen, he will have to bake on-site at equipped venues, or in customers' homes.

To put it another way, he wants to sell the experience of cooking as well as the finished product.

"Being around for eight years, people know our name, they know our food, and they still want it," he said. "But now they will have to call and schedule, and we will go to them."

Although Russell is eager to leave the burdens of overhead and take his passion to the road, there is still bittersweetness in the transition. The restaurant has provided a great experience for his family. He said he'll miss that daily contact with customers.

"We really want to thank the community. It's been a huge blessing for us," he said. "We have been able to meet hundreds of people we never would have met, even though we live in the same town."

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Russell at or (775) 671-2477.

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The Record Courier Updated Dec 11, 2012 04:18PM Published Dec 11, 2012 04:16PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.