The History of Norsland Lefse

The History of Norsland Lefse

13th May 2024

Lori McDonald

Norsland Lefse was established in the early 1980s by Merlin Hoiness, starting as a modest venture at his kitchen table with his wife. Their initial goal was to introduce lefse, a Norwegian thin, tortilla-like bread made from potatoes, flour, vegetable oil, and salt, into local stores. This bread, traditionally enjoyed during the holidays, traces its origins back to Norway and came to the Midwest USA in the 1880s, brought over by Norwegian immigrants. 

At our facility in Rushford, MN, Norsland Lefse takes pride in producing authentic, traditional Norwegian lefse. Crafted with care, our lefse is made from genuine potatoes, flour, and oil, capturing the essence of a homemade treat "just like grandma makes." Since its inception in 1983, our lefse has been a beloved comfort food, perfect for holidays or special occasions. It is best enjoyed with butter, sugar, cinnamon, or as a wrap for savory dishes, continuing the tradition and skill of preserving Norwegian culinary heritage. Our lefse rolling machines were manufactured, right in Rushford, by Jim Humble of Humble Manufacturing.

Innovation led to the creation of Uffda Chips, a testament to our commitment to creative excellence and sustainability. These chips, originally made from misshapen lefse that we didn't want to waste, are seasoned with cinnamon sugar or seasoned salt, offering a unique and delightful snack option that embodies our inventive spirit.

In 1997, Mark and Carolyn Johnson, along with Mark’s brother-in-law Scott James and his wife, Christi, acquired the business. Following a flood in 2007, they moved to a new, 9,000 square feet location, which previously housed the Tri-County Electric Cooperative. This new space, quadruple the size of the original, features a coffee shop, bakery, and Scandinavian gift shop with large windows for visitors to observe the lefse-making process. 

Norsland Lefse operates nine months a year, halting production during the summer months due to heat and humidity, and uses this time for equipment maintenance. The business strategy includes freezing products for year-round shipping, ensuring they maintain the homemade quality and taste without the use of preservatives, though shelf life is limited once refrigerated.

Johnson and James strategically broadened Norsland Lefse's market by venturing into online sales. Today, the majority of Norsland Lefse's revenue is generated through its online sales platform. In February 2024, Brilliance Business Solutions, owned by Lori and David McDonald, and known for its specialization in ecommerce for manufacturers and distributors, acquired Norsland Lefse. "We are thrilled to welcome Norsland Lefse into the Brilliance family. This venture not only aligns with our growth strategy but also amplifies our capacity to extend the same level of exponential growth and digital fluency to this loved brand," expressed Lori McDonald, President of NL Acquisition Co, LLC, which operates Norsland Lefse. "Mark Johnson, Scott James, and the entire Norsland Lefse team have cultivated something extraordinary here. We are dedicated to nurturing this legacy and unlocking new horizons for ecommerce success that will benefit the Rushford community and bolster our insights for merchant experiences."

Norsland Lefse continues to employ the traditional process developed by its founders, using real potatoes and rolling machines that maintain the authenticity and quality of their products.