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French pastry shop opens its doors in Willmar, Minn.

Travis Hanson poses with his culinary creations in the kitchen of Timeless Traditions, the First Street South pastry shop he owns with his wife, Christina. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- There's a French quality to Willmar's newest bakery.

Travis Hanson, a graduate of a top French pastry college, and his wife, Christina, are offering chouquettes, macarons, salambos, Paris-Brest, French chocolates, special order cakes and artisan breads in addition to Danish pastries, scones, caramel rolls and cookies at Timeless Traditions, 1108 First St. S.

"It's French inspired is how we put it,'' says Christine.

The Hansons, both 29, believe there's a demand for what they're offering. They've developed a loyal customer base from selling artisan bread at the Farmers Market and then selling pastries last Christmas at the Kandi Mall.

Customers say the Hansons' pastries are just as good as the pastries available at a couple of more well-known, out-of-town bakeries.

"That's a really nice compliment when you have people come back, and our favorite thing is word-of-mouth. We've been very fortunate. We've had a very good following,'' says Christine.

Travis says they offer a higher-end pastry "and a lot of people have come in and said they don't have to travel out of town to get the quality of artisan bread and pastry they want.''

Travis is from the Atwater area and Christine is from the Willmar-Pennock area. The couple had a lifestyle change about four years ago when Travis suffered a back injury while a crane operator and welder.

Christine suggested Travis go back to college and he enrolled in the culinary arts program at Hibbing Community College. During his second year, the chef told Travis he was really good at pastries and suggested he apply to The French Pastry School in Chicago, considered to be the nation's top pastry school.

"It takes quite a bit to get into that place,'' she said. "You need recommendations, write why you'd like to go there, some of the things you want to do, your inspirations in life.''

Travis was admitted in July 2010 and graduated in December 2010.

"We've kind of moved around a lot but we eventually got back here,'' Christine said. "We decided to put what he learned to work. We like the Willmar area and we thought why not try to open a pastry/bakery shop and offer Willmar something difference.''

They opened May 17 and held a successful grand opening June 9. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Pastries are available every day. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturday are bread days. Thursday and Friday normally are prep days for cakes that go out Saturday morning. They sometimes do cupcakes, but they don't have a freezer to keep them cool.

Travis does all the decorating.

"Anything that requires things to look beautiful, he's the one doing it,'' says Christine.

Travis is the only one from his class who started a business. He took advantage of everything he could at school.

"I was constantly asking the questions, finding out extra information. I wanted to get every single thing I could get out of it.''

The Hansons like traditional things. The décor is homey. Limited seating and coffee are available for customers who want to pause and enjoy their purchases. Christine remembers going to a bakery like this when she was younger.

"We want to provide good quality products and make you want to stay and have a cup of coffee and visit and not feel that you need to rush back into the world because people rush all the time and you forget just to enjoy something,'' she says.

The couple believes the future looks good.

"There's just something when you do it from scratch and it's all wholesome ingredients and no preservatives or added things,'' she says. "It makes a difference in the flavor. You get customers coming back because you took that extra time. We've had a really great following of customers and we're very thankful for them.''

For more information, call 320-262-3922.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150