LAKEFIELD - As a child, Lindsey Carlberg created one specific task for herself.

Make certain Dad’s lunch box always had fresh cookies.

Little did she know then that making batch after batch of cookies for her father’s lunch box was not only deliciously thoughtful, but would serve as a special ingredient in a recipe that shaped her life today.

Owner and baker at Z’bakery in Lakefield, Carlberg is the latest to continue the town’s long history of a downtown bakery.

“It’s gone well,” Carlberg said about her first two and a half years in business. “It’s busier than I expected, which is awesome. I can’t complain.”

She stays plenty busy, as ensuring the display case is fully stocked bright and early each morning with fresh donuts, rolls and other baked goods is a process that literally happens overnight. She begins mixing and kneading dough nightly at 11 p.m. so a variety of goodies are ready by 5 a.m. when she flips the sign to “open.”

“When I get here it’s breads and buns,” Carlberg said about her nightly routine. “Then I start working on bars, coffee cakes, muffins, quick breads - the other sweets.”

Carlberg admits that customers don’t see her face much out front near the display case. She’s making sure there’s always more to be done behind the scenes, like prepping, packaging and fulfilling special cake orders. It makes her appreciate her three-woman crew so she can focus on keeping the kitchen running, and the inevitable managerial duties that go along with owning a business.

While Carlberg has found her passion in the kitchen, she didn’t always picture herself surrounded by mixing bowls and cake pans.

A graduate of Adrian High School, she initially moved to the Twin Cities to study architecture. That wasn’t the right fit, so she took a couple years off from school. In the meantime, she saw multiple advertisements for Le Cordon Bleu school and decided to act on her impulse and enroll in pastry school.

“It sounded fun, so I tried it,” she said.

She eventually found her way back to southwest Minnesota and made Lakefield her home along with longtime partner Jerrod Schubert. The couple has two children, Paxton, 9, and Isaiah, 3.

While she’s only owned Z’bakery less than three years, it isn’t her first time working in the 332 Main St. building.

After moving to Lakefield about 10 years ago, Carlberg worked as a baker when the location was Wheeler Bread.

Her craft later brought her to Worthington, where she became known around town as “the cake decorator” as she worked in Fareway’s bakery.

She had an opportunity to purchase the bakery in Lakefield, but the timing just wasn’t right, she said about the opportunity she passed up five to six years ago.

But thanks to an investor who wanted to see the bakery tradition continue, Carlberg got another chance.

Inspired by a nickname she’d earned from her nephew who couldn’t quite pronounce ‘Lindsey,’

Z’bakery not only has become a place for Lakefield residents, but a staple throughout the area.

A variety of baked goods can be purchased at Hagge’s Oil and BP Expressway in Lakefield. Z’bakery also supplies buns to the Lakefield VFW and Shed restaurant and breads to Doman-Rose Place, an assisted living facility in Lakefield. They even have a presence in Jackson, as Sunshine Foods orders baked goods twice weekly to stock its bakery area.

From the regulars who stop by for their breakfast roll to the local businesses that rely on Z’bakery to stock their kitchens or shelves, Carlberg said the local support is incredible.

“We have so much support and that’s what keeps us going,” she said. “It’s the motivation to keep doing what we’re doing and to keep doing better.”