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Person of Interest

Nothing Bundt Cakes CEO Dolf Berle Sets a High Bar

The champion pole-vaulter plans to add 150 stores to the Addison-based company this year.
| |Photography by Elizabeth Lavin
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Dolf Berle is a world-class athlete. And he likes sweets. Elizabeth Lavin

Last year, Dolf Berle stepped in as the CEO of Nothing Bundt Cakes; this year, he plans to add 150 stores to the Addison-based company, which already has about 550 franchise bakeries across the country. Berle isn’t your typical buttoned-up executive. He’s also a champion pole-vaulter.

Before working at Nothing Bundt Cakes, you worked at—to name a few—Lucky Strike Lanes, Dave & Buster’s, House of Blues, and Topgolf. Do you think you could ever run an accounting firm? I am dedicated to working in the joy business. That has many forms, and many companies fall into that category. Each one has been super exciting, and Nothing Bundt Cakes is a total blast to be part of because of the joy and the caring and the kindness that we can create in the world.

When you walk through the door at work, does it smell like cake? We are moving into new offices where there will be a test kitchen. So today it doesn’t smell like cake, but the spirit of cake is all around us.

Tell me your high score for Pop-A-Shot, your bowling average, and your golf handicap. Oh, wow. For Pop-A-Shot, I was able to get over 90. I think once I bowled 222, with an average of probably like 125. And I’m really a Topgolf golfer, not a golf course golfer. My job has always been to create exciting, fun, and joyful experiences for people, rather than being the best at the games.

That feels like a convenient way to apologize for your low scores and your high handicap. That is certainly convenient, and it’s also true.

Nothing Bundt Cakes: which came first, the business or the pun? The founders will tell you that puns were always part of the business, and so they’re inextricably linked. When you called me for this interview, actually, I wasn’t sure whether you’d bundt-dialed me or not. 

I see what you did there. Have you ever thought about starting a spin-off business? Maybe one that involves poundcake and animal rescue? Tim, you clearly have spent a lot of time thinking about this. I need you to come over maybe once a month and share ideas like that.

How many times have you said to someone, to one-up them, “Oh, yeah? Well, I was the first person to pole-vault more than 4 meters on Zimbabwean soil”? I actually never say things like that. It’s not in my character to be a one-upper. If you are a world champion, it’s not something that you have to explain, because if people care about it, they’ll know about it. But I’ve won the World Championship in the pole vault for age 50 and for age 55, and then, just within the last year, at age 60. Those are all age-group titles, in five-year increments. But I’m primarily a decathlete, and last year I was No. 2 in the world for men ages 60 to 64. 

How long do you intend to continue this? I’ll continue it until I am either dead or just physically can’t do it any longer, because it’s really part of my identity. I have a whole approach to life around being a competitor and training and trying to be the best version of myself.

“What seems to fade, as I age, is the ability to acrobatically adjust.”

When you travel for a competition, is a vaulting pole a carry-on item? Southwest Airlines actually will allow you to check pole-vaulting poles, but you do have to get to the airport early. They’re about 15 feet long, and four poles is a good number for me because they have different tensions. At larger meets, they have them for rent. Some people travel with their own discus, which is an easy carry-on, though it does raise eyebrows going through security. 

You’ve twice competed on American Ninja Warrior. Which obstacles got you? I was knocked out by something called the “pipe fitter” and the other one was what they call “tic toc.” In both cases, it was just a lack of familiarity with the obstacles. What seems to fade, for me at least, as I age, is the ability to acrobatically adjust to an obstacle without having practiced it beforehand. But it was a great learning experience.

You’ve got my phone number. When that test kitchen opens, I’m here to serve. OK, yes, I’ve got your number.     


This story originally appeared in the March issue of D Magazine with the headline “He Lets Them Eat Cake.” Write to [email protected].

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…
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