Last Bite: How a Bread and a Radio Station Helped Build a Bakery

June 19, 2017
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Story by Tom Petersen. Retired WGN Radio, Chicago

When the owners of the Door County Bakery in Sister Bay decided to adver- tise their business on Chicago's WGNRadio, little did they know that the partnership would reap such in- credible returns.

Let me tell you how it happened.

In early 2003, Don and Jean Thompson, the owners of the Door County Bakery approached me one day as I was shopping in their bakery and mentioned the possibility of buying commercials on WGN Radio. They wanted to be a part of the Spike O'Dell morning show on the station. Spike was the host of the show, and I was his news anchor.

Spike’s show was the top-rated morning show in Chicago, and Don saw it as the perfect place to showcase his newly developed bread and promote his bakery to a huge Midwest audience.

The bread was unique to the Door County Bakery, the result of a recipe Don put together incorporating the age-old qualities of Euro- pean breadmaking, produced in an imported stone oven.

Don wanted to protect the name of his newly branded “Corsica Loaf” and encourage people to come to the bakery to try it.

The more Spike and I talked about the Corsica Loaf during the free- form Door County Bakery commercials, the more people decided tovisit the bakery and taste for themselves this wonderful bread and the other delectable items being produced at the bakery. Don and Jean made it a point to keep us supplied at the radio station with a variety of bakery products that we could talk about.

We also had a hand in the development of another bakery “star,” the “dooey-gooey” and its peanut butter cookie.

Spike happened to wonder out loud one morning if it would be possible to put real peanut butter inside peanut butter cookies. Jean Thompson heard the conversation on the air and within the hour came up with a recipe for the cookies.  Soon the samples had arrived at the radio station and we were singing the praises of this new sweet treat!

The Door County Bakery commercials also ran on the WGN over- night show with Steve and Johnnie and that added to the popularity of the bakery. The Door County Bakery also became the home of the Spike O’Dell Coffee Cup Museum. Spike had collected the signed cof- fee cups used by his many famous guests and sent them to Don and Jean to be displayed in the bakery’s Back Door Studio.

That collection remains at the bakery to this day as a tribute to Spike and WGN for all they did to put the Door County Bakery “on the map.”

A chance conversation years ago with Don, and a courageous decision by Don to invest in radio advertising, have helped to make Corsica Loaf and the bakery into Door County icons.

To this day, Don and Jean tell me that hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t mention hearing about the bakery on WGN Radio even though the commercials no longer run on the station.

Spike and I have since retired from WGN along with Steve and Johnnie, but the word pictures produced on our radio shows still resonate with people heading into Wisconsin’s fa- mous Door County. They still come into the bakery to try that bread “they heard about on the radio” and Spike's peanut butter cookies. It's a tribute to the power of radio advertis- ing and to the popularity of the quality items coming out of the ovens of the Door County Bakery. I'd call that a mutually beneficial business partnership.


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