Retirement didn't last long for this Battle Lake couple

Last summer, Bill Varney retired, moved from the Twin Cities with his wife Teresa and spent his summer near Battle Lake gardening, sharpening his cooking skills and laying low.

This summer in Battle Lake, Bill finds himself making sandwiches, hot coffee, mingling with customers and experiencing a whole new world. Including avocado toast.

What an iconic lake town gift store!

What an iconic lake town gift store!

Retirement, Bill? Are you kidding? Welcome to retail, Bill and Teresa!

Born in Chicago, Bill’s father worked for Pillsbury, meaning they moved quite a bit. He graduated from  a Florida high school, then soon drove up to the Twin Cities to live with his brother. Bill spent that summer working for McGlynn’s bakery which, at the time, was a well-known brand name in town. That’s because McGlynn operated bakeries in Target stores.

Bill loved working in the food industry, but remembers that year in Minneapolis. “It was in 1984, the year that the croissant craze started,” Bill said, “and I started working making 5,000 pounds of dough in a night. By the time I left, six months later, we were making 50,000 pounds of croissant dough a night!”

Bill enrolled in the American Institute of Baking in Kansas, “the premier commercial baking operation in the world.” He eventually worked for a yeast company – ever hear of Red Star yeast? - for more than 30 years. He lived in the Twin Cities, traveled for work yet found time to spend on a local lake.

After retiring, moving to the lake seemed like a natural. And it was for that first year. But obviously, Bill needed to keep busy.


For several summers, Teresa rented space for a small retail business in town. That retirement winter, a nearby gift store, housed in a wonderful Victorian home on Battle Lake’s main street, came up for sale.

The stars aligned. The offer was made. The deal was done.

So what surprises did this new venture have? For one, it was amazing that they closed on the property two weeks before Memorial Day weekend and managed to get it up and running for the holiday.  Whoa!

Teresa works the retail space where she offers unique cabin, lake and home décor. In the lower walk-out level (yes, bring your dog along), a small coffee shop/deli spoke to Bill’s culinary passions. Now Lake Dog Deli provides specialty coffees, home-baked goods and unique sandwiches. “Do you think people will like avocado toast?” he asks. Yes, it’s on the menu.

It should also be noted that the Varneys believe in being “clean and green,” meaning they chose to buy recyclable cups, utensils and plates even if it means an extra trip or two to the recycling center. They also strive to buy local starting with Stumbeano’s Coffee, roasted in nearby Fergus Falls.

You can bet the Varneys will be active in the community, starting with a Fergus Falls community education class in the fall of 2019 where Bill will offer baking tips.

So if you mention retirement…well, there’s just no way!

A fun “Hall of Fame” contest, where customers dog were photographed and voted on by the public, was a fun activity this summer.

A fun “Hall of Fame” contest, where customers dog were photographed and voted on by the public, was a fun activity this summer.