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BEHIND THE SCENES: How Dorothy Lane Market preps for Thanksgiving

Dorothy Lane Market — with stores in Springboro, Oakwood and Washington Twp. — puts hundreds of manhours into preparing and selling more than 5,000 turkeys, 2,000 pumpkin pies, 6,000 pounds of green beans and more for Thanksgiving.

Last week, the Dayton Daily News was given a tour of the operations behind Dorothy Lane’s preparation for Thanksgiving sales, which began well before this busy week.

Amy Dingeldein, manager of central bakery for Dorothy Lane Market, prepares pecan pies for baking. Dingeldein said they will make 1,000 pecan pies and 2,000 pumpkin pies in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. LISA POWELL / STAFF (HANDOUT)

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Turkey orders start in February when Dorothy Lane forecasts the number of birds it needs to order at a local farm. The baby turkeys arrive in July at the farm and are raised until this month.

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“It will be well over 5,000 turkeys,” said Jack Gridley, Dorothy Lane vice president of meat and seafood.

Dorothy Lane carries fresh, not frozen, turkeys which are ordered through a partnership with Bowman and Landes turkey farm. The turkeys are sold uncooked or cooked, whole or in pieces, and also sells ground turkey.

The turkeys are raised cage free and vegetarian fed but two years ago Dorothy Lane also switched to birds fed a non-GMO diet. The key is not raising turkeys all hatched on the same day.

“This year we learned from the mistake and started the flocks at different times. This year it’s coming out perfect and we’ve got a great range of sizes,” Gridley said.

Laura Enzbrenner, who bakes the famous Laura’s Cookies cookies only sold at Dorothy Lane, estimated she will sell close to 10,000 cookies for Thanksgiving week.

The grocery store also will sell about 2,000 pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, said Scott Fox, VP of bakery operations.

While some baked goods are planned on the grocery list, Fox said bakery items are often impulse buys and presentation is key for drawing in customers.

Dorothy Lane Market will prepare thousands of pounds of food for the Thanksgiving holiday. LISA POWELL / STAFF (HANDOUT)

Late last week, the bakery case was already displaying meticulously crafted Thanksgiving goods, from pumpkin-shaped cookies, to turkey designed cupcakes to Turkey Red Wheat Bread stamped with the imprint of words “Give Thanks.”

“The look of the product and the way it is displayed gets people to pick it up. Folks come in to buy groceries, center of the plate meat and produce, but often times bakery is just walking by and ‘that looks good, I’ll pick that up,’” Fox said.

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Fox said while baking for Thanksgiving is a huge operation with planning meetings, Dorothy Lane’s bakery has experienced workers that make the task easier.

“We have a fantastic staff. We have a seasoned staff. They know what they are doing and they don’t need a lot of direction,” he said.

Shoppers can order an entire Thanksgiving meal prepared by Dorothy Lane and orders are ramping up.

Carrie Walters, corporate chef and culinary director, said many shoppers “have help from ‘Aunt Dorothy’” when making Thanksgiving dinner for their family.

“They’ll take our mashed potatoes or our stuffing and add their own little thing and it helps them save on time and prep work and it still tastes delicious,” Walters.

For the week of Thanksgiving, Dorothy Lane sells 6,000 pounds of green beans, 2,500 pounds of gravy, 1,400 pounds of cranberry walnut relish, 1,600 pounds of stuffing, and 1,500 pounds each for sweet and mashed potatoes.

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Laura Enzbrenner, the founder of Laura's Cookies which are sold at Dorothy Lane Market, decorates cookies for the Thanksgiving holiday. Enzbrenner said she would make 10,000 cookies this year during the week of Thanksgiving. LISA POWELL / STAFF (HANDOUT)

There will be workers in all three stores helping customers get their special orders of prepared foods. Online orders are already coming in — the first one in mid-October — for raw turkeys and prepared Thanksgiving food.

They don’t do orders for hot turkeys the week of Thanksgiving because it is too busy but do sell pre-cooked turkeys that can be heated at home. There will also be workers constantly carving turkeys at stations in the days before Thanksgiving.

There will be two shifts going to make turkeys and prepare in bulk during the night for orders the next day.

“We have one person just making cranberry relish all day long. It is an amazing amount of cranberry walnut relish,” Walters said.

The days immediately prior to Thanksgiving, Dorothy Lane’s three stores open prepared for big crowds and lines.

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Kim Spanel is among the many kitchen cooks at Dorothy Lane Market's Washington Twp. store who will prepare thousands of pounds of food for Thanksgiving. LISA POWELL / STAFF (HANDOUT)

“The height of the day, there are lines half way down the aisles. It gets pretty crazy,” Scott Achs, assistant store manager, said.

Staff make sure aisles are set up with plenty of space to maneuver. They schedule extra cashiers and carry-out workers and bring in some students on break from school who bring in carts all day long.

Extra workers help direct shoppers to the shortest line and keep the traffic flow around check-out moving, and workers sometimes hand out samples to people waiting in line. Everything from packaging to plastic bags needs stocked up ahead of time, Achs said.

“From the time we open almost to the time we close, it is constant business. Lines of people all day long. But we do our very best to get them out of here in a timely manner,” Achs said.

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