From Lunch Counter to Thriving Restaurant
After spending a couple decades cooking and working in restaurants, Andrea Baumgardner and her husband, Brett Bernath, weren’t sure they’d ever open another eatery. While Andrea loves combining foods to create remarkable flavor combinations, she was tired of sacrificing family time for the long hours running a restaurant often demands.
Then in 2016, the couple decided to open a small lunch counter inside Brett’s mid-century furniture and antique shop, Mid-Mod Madhaus. With its traditional sourdough bagels – fermented over 1 day and then boiled for a shellacked, bubbly crust with a chewy inside – and fare inspired by their Nordic and Jewish roots, the lunch counter became so popular, it soon outgrew the space.
“I thought, ‘Well, this might be the winner, finally,’” Brett explains. “With that, we can ride into the sunset and maybe not be 2 people in the kitchen, 12 hours a day – maybe we could have a crew and a staff and do it for real.”
That’s when they decided to talk to Bell Bank.
Listen to Andrea and Brett tell their story, and get a glimpse inside BernBaum’s:
Owners of BernBaum’s Find Support in Bell Bank
While Andrea says she had never even dared to look for a business loan, after finding the perfect space to expand their restaurant, Andrea and Brett went to the bank where Brett had banked since 6th grade.
“I've been with Bell Bank for about 35 years, because since day one, as an adolescent, they knew who I was,” Brett comments. “Now I do most of my banking at Bell in Moorhead, and whoever's in the window there is always happy to see me, I'm always happy to see them, we're friends, which just doesn't happen when you're at a corporate nationwide bank – you're not going to build relationships like that. And so it's always felt like a safe place because of those connections. There's a lot of trust built.”
“Bell Bank was super-helpful, super-great in a way that I have not experienced,” Andrea remarks.
In 2019, Andrea and Brett opened BernBaum’s – a sandwich and bagel shop that serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch 7 days a week and supports local growers and ranchers whenever possible – at 402 Broadway in downtown Fargo.
Between the 1950s-style tables and chairs, antique toy ovens adorning the walls, and cuisine that has won awards and garnered national attention, it’s easy to see why reviewers describe the restaurant as “magical,” and the food as “homemade heaven.” Where customer service is prioritized as much as the food and atmosphere, eating at BernBaum’s looks, tastes and feels like visiting grandma’s house and nostalgia satisfied.
“I believe that if you feed someone, it's an act of love,” Andrea comments. “It's a way of showing your care in the world. And so I think it's gratifying to know that people feel cared for – feel nourished.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to destroy everything they had built, Bell was there, guiding them through.
“We were growing, and the numbers were looking great, and all of a sudden, it just tanked,” Brett recalls. “But we still have this loan with the bank, and we thought, ‘This is it, it's all over.’ It just went from our dreams came true to just, it's all over.”
They thought they were going to lose their restaurant – and maybe even their home – but Bell was able to put their loan on hold and help them with a Paycheck Protection Program loan and other programs.
“Bell really brought a calm to us, because we were very panicked,” Brett says.
“They made a painful situation so much less painful,” adds Andrea.
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