Comfort food business Leo's Potato Dumplings is for sale
“An ideal buyer would have a good understanding of the food industry and an entrepreneurial mindset that allows the business to continuously grow," said Mary Hodny, current owner of Leo's Potato Dumplings. "They must also have the insight and open-mindedness to see its potential.”
Leo’s Potato Dumplings, located in Lankin, North Dakota, is for sale. The business can be relocated to the right entrepreneurial, food business-minded person. I reached out to Mary and Jerry Hodny, who have owned and operated the business since 2009 when they purchased from founder Leo Bosh, age 87 at the time.
Bosh started the business in 1989. The potato dumplings he created and which are carried on by the Hodnys are Czechoslovakian in heritage and keep “Czech heritage alive” for the Hodnys, who live in the family home built in 1897 on the homestead founded by Jerry's great-grandfather’s Czech family.
Potato dumplings are not solely a food business for the Hodnys. They are a rural cultural item and a value-added product for agriculture, as they're made from locally grown ingredients.
“We have witnessed mothers and grandmothers tell their children that they are not making dumplings anymore because they can buy Leo’s potato dumplings,” said Mary Hodny. “Leo’s Potato Dumplings are made with almost all North Dakota ingredients. They are a simple, hearty, Czech comfort food that a lot of people enjoy.”
Mary and Jerry expanded the potato dumpling business over the past 13 years of ownership and now are looking for a buyer to grow and continue their rural business.
Originally the business was frozen products only going to a few stores. Now, the Hodnys self-deliver the potato dumplings to stores throughout the Red River Valley of North Dakota and northern Minnesota, and a distributor, S&S Roadrunner in Bismarck, North Dakota, helped expand the reach to the outlying areas of North Dakota and four surrounding states. Additionally, they created new products in the business, Czech Fries and Kolache.
I almost always have a pack of Leo’s Potato Dumplings in my freezer and serve them with a beef or pork roast in the fall and winter months as a comfort food we all love.
If you’re from a rural upper Midwest community, you may know potato dumplings as a cultural food item, regardless of your heritage. My family was just talking last weekend about if and when the local small town café would start “potato dumpling nights” again in the fall and continue through the winter.
For Leo’s product, “Traditionally, the potato dumplings are cooked from frozen in boiling water, making it easy for anyone to add them to the dinner table as a hearty side dish. We have known people to use the dough for soup dumplings, while others boil them and then fry them in butter for a different texture experience,” said Mary Hodny.
Mary, 58, and I spoke this week by phone. She shared, “I am not old and feeble, but a younger person can go places with this business.” The business grew significantly through Pride of Dakota holiday showcases over the past decade around North Dakota with people sampling the product and buying it.
Once the business is sold, Mary hopes to spend more time with their grandchildren. She said the potato dumplings business is “truly a labor of love." She will continue with a food truck and catering business she and her daughter, Katrina, started in 2015, which they hope to focus on and grow.
Mary said the potato dumpling business can be relocated “or taken on by a whole community" and includes the two product lines — potato dumplings and Czech Fries — the use of the name, retail customer list, and, depending on the buyers' needs, the equipment and the building in which the products are made.
Hodny noted the dumpling products would be “a nice addition to an existing food production company.” The business can be a profitable, stand-alone business or a hobby-like business depending on how the operator chooses to make it run, said Hodny. It comes down to how much product and delivery of the product can be made.
Currently, Mary works full time in the potato dumpling business with Katrina, who is finishing her bachelor’s degree and works daily in the business around her class schedule. Mary’s business partner and husband, Jerry, works full time for the local county highway department.
Who buys a potato dumpling business? Czech heritage is not required, just an entrepreneurial mindset and ideally a food business understanding, says Mary.
“An ideal buyer would have a good understanding of the food industry and an entrepreneurial mindset that allows the business to continuously grow," she said. "They must also have the insight and open-mindedness to see its potential.”
The Hodny family said they “want to see Leo’s Potato Dumplings continue to grow and bring a bit of homemade goodness to the dinner table."
For the love of potato dumplings served to my family and for the continuation of a rural, small business, I hope a buyer is found.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.