Bakery becomes ‘Sister’s Workshop’ in Christmas season

Published 2:15 am Saturday, December 1, 2018

When Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes goes to a community to give a speech, she literally “shares the warmth” of her famous rolls. This season, she’s found a different way to share the warmth.

Barnes began her Share the Warmth Tour three years ago when she began touring and giving speeches.

“It has been an ongoing thing where every place that I would give a talk, I would bring boxes of my rolls,” Barnes said. “I started calling the local chamber of commerce that I would go to and I would ask them, ‘What local charity or organization is goes above and beyond what they are called to do?’ They always have a great organization to receive the rolls.”

Sometimes Barnes brings rolls to those that are less fortunate in hopes of spreading the warmth.

“Sometimes we surprise the different charities or local people,” Barnes said. “We just want to bring them this bread and hopefully make their day by sharing our food with them.”

The holiday season is a busy season for the baking business, but this year disaster struck as one of the main ovens in the the Luverne Sister Shubert bakery malfunctioned.

“The mechanics came in and looked at it and said there was no way to fix it,” Barnes said. “They would have to completely rebuild it and it would take about four to eight weeks.”

Barnes said that her company came back in a big way after the malfunction.

“The company did not want to lay off all of our employees or make them draw unemployment checks because of the shut down,” Barnes said. “So they came to me and asked me to come up with an idea for something the employees can do while they fix the oven.”

During her Thanksgiving dinner, Barnes raised the question to her family members with the hopes that they could help her come up with an idea. To her surprise, her granddaughter presented a simple solution.

“’Share the warmth, make blankets for charities!’ my granddaughter said nonchalantly as I asked what we should do,” Barnes said. “I told her that I didn’t know how to sew, but she said that it wasn’t a problem.”

Anna Duffy took her grandmother to the Andalusia Sewing Center, where they picked out fabric, and Duffy taught her “Mamommy” to make a fleece blanket.

“We just went to Singers and got a whole bunch of fabric,” Barnes said. “She showed me exactly how to make a small little blanket with just a pair of scissors and then we taught all of the employees in the warehouse how to make them.”

With blankets in hand, Barnes started delivering them to the communities around Luverne, where the warehouse is located, and gave them to people in need, children, the elderly and animals.

Barnes said that the entire experience has been great because she gets to reconnect with her employees.

“Usually I am on the road doing tours,” Barnes said. “But now I have the opportunity to reconnect with all of my employees and it has been really wonderful. I have been back at home just having a great time.”

Barnes said that most of the men in the warehouse didn’t want to make blankets, so they brought bicycles that needed to be assembled and they have been building them.

She said that they will keep making blankets and delivering them until they are able to make rolls again.

Barnes founded her roll empires when she began baking her grandmother’s recipe in her own kitchen in Troy.

She grew the company, and in 2000, sold it to the T. Marzetti Company, a subsidiary of Lancaster Colony Corporation. The corporation kept her and her family in the fold to run the business.

On average, Sister Schubert’s makes more than 6 million rolls per day.