At 50 years old, the third generation of Crack’d Pot continues the home-cooked tradition

The next time you’re at Crack’d Pot Restaurant and Bakery on North Minnesota Avenue, take a close look at the freestanding sign.

The logo – of course a cracked cooking pot – contains two initials, a K and a C. This can be seen as a tribute to the restaurant’s former name, KC’s.

What it really is, however, is a tribute to the original owners of the family restaurant, the late Kurt Andersen and his wife Carol, now 83, who still plays an active role in the business as a baker.

Although the Andersens’ son, Mike, is the restaurant’s current owner, it is the third generation that keeps the eatery open and thriving as it approaches its 50th year.e birthday.

Alex Andersen worked at the Crack’d Pot for 18 years. He is now 28 and started washing dishes at the age of 10. At one point, he never imagined himself in the restaurant industry. Now he can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I never imagined myself becoming a restaurant owner, just because of the stories about how hard it is,” says Andersen. “But I don’t know – I don’t want to get emotional, normally I’m not emotional – I just see how hard my grandmother has worked for the house, just the dedication they (the family) have put in recently. year. It would be a shame to let it all go, you know.”

The Crack’d Pot opened on October 16, 1974. That day, Sioux Falls hosted President Gerald Ford, so Kurt and Carol waited until 2 p.m. to open, fearing traffic jams from the presidential motorcade.

Dan Stahly was there that day. He was hired as an assistant manager.

“We didn’t open until later that afternoon because we had no experience with this place, and we were afraid there would be a lot of traffic, but he went after the Air Guard,” Stahly recalled. “We opened at 2 p.m. that day. We were open from 6 a.m. to midnight at the time.”

A handful of restaurants surpass Crack’d Pot in longevity. The South Dakota Retailers Association does not keep data on how long restaurants or other businesses have been operating in the state, said communications director Caleb Nugteren.

“We know of a few others in the state that have been around this long, but restaurants are notorious for their low success rates, with one in three not surviving the first year,” he said. “For that reason, 50 years is nothing to scoff at.”

According to its website, the B&G Milkyway on West 12e Street opened in 1954, but unlike the Crack’d Pot, it has no indoor seating. Minervas opened in 1977 in a 60-year-old building. The Roll’n Pin Restaurant also opened in 1977, while Casa Del Rey on Russell Street opened 44 years ago. The barrel opened in 1964; while today it is active on West 12e Street, it was closed and unavailable in Sioux Falls for several years.

The late Bob Smith opened the Crack’d Pot and at one time owned 14 Truck Haven truck stops and Crack’d Pot in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Kurt Andersen and Smith were good friends, Alex Andersen said, and Smith hired his grandparents to manage the new restaurant.

Kurt Andersen was born in Denmark and lived under Nazi occupation. When he was 13, he came to the United States. Years later he served in the United States Army, and that was where his future was determined.

“They put him in the kitchen and he realized, I’m really good at this, I like this,” Alex Andersen said. “When he got into the Air Force, he worked three or four jobs in the kitchen, and he worked his way up to manager and part owner, and when he passed away, he owned this location.”

Alex Andersen was four months old when his grandfather died, but he grew up hearing the family history. Kurt Andersen began working with Smith in 1967. He chose the Andersens to manage his new restaurant on North Minnesota Avenue. When Smith died in 1992, the other truck stops and family-owned restaurants began to close. The Andersens, who were already partial owners, took over the company completely. For a time, there was also a second Crack’d Pot, in the space where Famous Dave’s is now located on South Minnesota Avenue.

When the Andersens took full ownership, they changed the name to KC because of their initials, but kept the menu the same. When their oldest son, Mike, took over ownership in 2005, he changed the name back to the Crack’d Pot, keeping the initials on the sign as a tribute to his parents.

Although Carol Andersen shies away from publicity, she remains an active part of the restaurant’s staff. Andersen bakes the restaurant’s pies, everything from the year-round favorite, the Dutch apple, to seasonal specialties like strawberry-rhubarb.

The bestseller in November and December is always pumpkin, Alex Andersen said, and although they offer it 12 months of the year, few people show interest in it from January through October.

“Blueberry is my favorite and Dad’s,” said Alex Andersen. “We have homemade sour cream pie, which a lot of people don’t have anymore. It’s a Midwestern thing. It’s Grandma’s recipe, and she knows it and I know it and we’re the only two. So if we were gone tomorrow, no one would know.”

The Crack’d Pot also sells whole pies. Last Thanksgiving, Carol Andersen prepared 165 pumpkin pies for the two days before the holiday. Every spring, JD’s House of Trophies orders about forty cakes for the warehouse workers and staff, and Carol prepares them all.

While she’s preparing cakes, Stahly is in the kitchen with her, preparing the homemade soups that are also a Crack’d Pot favorite. Stahly and Carol Andersen have developed a routine, he said.

“Carol is great to work with. We are like two peas in a pod,” Stahly said. “When I work with Carol, she knows what I’m doing, I know what she’s doing. We don’t even talk that much. We just know what the other is doing.”

Beans and ham, chicken noodles and plant-based beef are available daily, along with chili. Soups of the day vary with offerings such as chicken with wild rice, potato, corn chowder or minestrone.

“We eat a lot of soup,” said Alex Andersen. “We make it in big, five-gallon batches, and we have to make it a few times a week. This time of year we eat a lot of soup. It decreases in the summer.”

Although no catering is offered, the Crack’d Pot also sells soup by the gallon, allowing individuals and large groups such as churches to come pick up their orders.

Alex Andersen uses the title of general manager and oversees the restaurant’s hiring and marketing, but most of his time is spent cooking. His only full day off is Wednesday, as that is the restaurant’s slowest day. He also tries to leave around 2pm on Tuesday so he can spend time with his wife Emily and two sons, Jack, two and a half, and Harvey, 10 months.

“I told my wife, every minute of my day I spend doing something,” Alex Andersen said. “There isn’t really any free time. We could use a little more kitchen help, which frees up a little more time, but you do what you do and get things done.”

Alex Andersen studied economics while attending the University of South Dakota and continued to work at the Crack’d Pot. He never worked anywhere other than the family business, and he said he fell in love with the process over time.

“I kept working through college and thought, I kind of like this, it was great to be able to work with my grandma all the time,” he said. “Not every child can say that: I see my grandmother every day. It’s a great perk of the job.”

With his passion for numbers, it’s no surprise that he cheers as the Crack’d Pot sets records for attracting customers. Alex Andersen doesn’t think he’d ever want to own more than one restaurant, but he does want this one to be as busy as possible.

But he also wants it to be affordable. He keeps his prices as low as possible, he said, knowing that eating out can be an expensive affair for a family of four, he said. He has also decided to pay the fees imposed by credit car companies, rather than passing them on to his customers.

“I see it as the cost of doing business, no matter how difficult it is to pay those thousands of dollars to credit card merchants every month,” he said.

Stahly isn’t the only regular employee at the Crack’d Pot. Richard St. Pierre, Deb Wenzel and Cherish Green all have about 20 years of service. The restaurant is fortunate to have such a solid core group to rely on, says Alex Andersen.

When South Minnesota’s Crack’d Pot opened in 1979, it took over the space of another restaurant. However, the North Minnesota Avenue restaurant was purpose-built as a Crack’d Pot. When construction took place, it was part of a developer’s plan to create a strip of office buildings leading to the airport, Stahly said. Inflation problems and Citibank’s decision to move further north put an end to that.

The neighborhood’s industrial business district is changing, Alex Anderson. For example, Maguire, Crack’s Pot’s neighbor to the north for more than two decades, will soon move its metal fabrication plant north of Interstate 90.

That makes it even more important that Alex Andersen attracts new customers. One way to do this is by offering the food people have been craving for more than 49 years. Alex Andersen has Truck Haven menus from the 1960s and ’70s, and while prices have changed, people’s tastes haven’t, he said.

Stahly, now 74, took restaurant management classes at South Dakota State University. He has worked at the Crack’d Pot for 39 of the 49 years and returns to help Carol Andersen after her husband died.

“For me it’s like home. I enjoy everything about it. Well, don’t clean out the grease trap. But I enjoy it,” Stahly said. “I’m not very good at it, but I like it. There are better cooks, better chefs and faster people, but when I walk in the morning I feel like I’m at home.”

He puts in about 55 hours a week, Stahly said. When he started, he worked 65 hours a week. He came home in the evening so tired that he sat down in a chair to untie his shoes and fell asleep until morning.

It’s worth it, Stahly said.

“It’s a family business trying to provide good, healthy food at the most reasonable price possible,” he said. “We don’t have to please the shareholders; we have to satisfy our customers.”

People like knowing that the Crack’d Pot has been in the same family for three generations, Alex Andersen said. He enjoys being third generation. While he doesn’t plan to make his sons wash dishes at the age of 10, as he did, he hopes they will appreciate what their father, grandfather and great-grandparents built.

“Dad always taught me that anything worth doing is going to be hard,” Alex Andersen said. “I hope we can keep it open for another fifty years.”

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