Bec-Lin Foods was begun in Lake Park about 1951 by Arthur Carlson, who began baking and selling lefse to surrounding area residents. It was a seasonal business, operating in the fall until Christmas.
In the late sixties Tory Olsen, Norman Nelson and Ed Knutson purchased the business. It was still operated as a seasonal business and had a sales volume of about $275,000 when Bill Schoeneberger and Tuffy Nelson purchased the business in late 1982.
The company consisted of two full time and seven part time employees and was located in an old cinder block building.
Bill and Tuffy set out to develop a year around business. They expanded into the Mexican Food business while growing the lefse business.
In 1984 they purchased a piece of equipment that allowed them to mass bake lefse while retaining the old fashioned recipe. Expansion into the corn and flour tortilla markets was also begun.
Tuffy was diagnosed with cancer in May, 1985, and he died in February, 1986. Because of increased business a new, modern plant was built in Perham in October, 1987. With nineteen employees and sales of $1.5 million the Perham chapter of Bec-Lin Foods had begun.
In 1991 a pressed flour tortilla line was added, requiring an expansion of the current facility. By 1994, Bec-Lin Foods had about sixty-five employees, sales of five million dollars and was the largest lefse baker in the United States. In addition, its
Mexican Foods were marketed over a wide area of the United States. Employees came from Audubon, Detroit Lakes, Dent, Ottertail, New York Mills, Vergas, Sebeka and Deer Creek to work in the facility. For many years, Bec-Lin was one of the major foods manufacturing companies in Perham.
In June 2000, Cenex Harvest States Cooperative bought two Minnesota tortilla businesses, including Bec-Lin of Perham, with plans to produce the company’s Monteray Wraps and El Gran Deli tortillas, as well as Scandinavian Premium and Aunt Julia lefse at Cenex Harvest States’ New Brighton, Minnesota facility.
Information in part from the East Otter Tail County History, Volume II, published in 1994 now available online at www.historymuseumeot.com
Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.