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Search is on for the next 'Krolls Lady'

The Kroll's ladies

BISMARCK - The sassy grandmas made famous across North Dakota for their stern lecture to "sit down and eat" are looking for the next Kroll's star.

For more than a decade, Pat Sondrall of Fargo and Clara Hedin of Moorhead have appeared in regional TV commercials as the humorous German ladies who "work" at Kroll's Diner.

Whether driving in a Kroll's-mobile flashing "gang" signs or having milkshake explode out of the shake maker, the women have been an unmistakable advertising hit for the North Dakota chain.

"They really are the ladies that you see on TV and that makes them really real and approachable," said Meghan Finch of H2M, the Fargo agency that creates the commercials.

"That's really what the Kroll's brand is all about," she said. "It's about attitude. It's about good old-fashioned diner food and that sort of German, hard-nosed, in your face sort of funny attitude."

And now you could be the next Kroll's star.

Sondrall moved away from North Dakota to be closer to family. A commercial will begin airing next week with Hedin declaring that she can't do it alone and needs "help" at Kroll's.

Finch said there are big aprons to fill, and they're looking for somebody with personality and humor to become part of the advertising brand.

"We're looking for somebody that can just elevate what it means to be a Kroll's lady to a whole 'nother level," she said.

Although the contest promotion focuses on the next Kroll's "lady," Kroll's owner Keith Glatt said the contest is open to men and women, young and old. The winner or winners may have similarities to the existing Kroll's ladies or could bring a new twist to the brand, he said.

Glatt, whose parents bought the Kroll's business in 1972, said he had no idea the Kroll's ladies would become so popular when they made the first commercial in 2000. They went on to create about 20 commercials, Finch said.

"You can sure tell, when the commercials start on television, how the sales will pick up just from the Kroll's ladies," Glatt said.

Jody Mattern, an advertising professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead, said the TV commercials were targeted to an older audience but have been just as successful with young people.

"Younger people always like funny, and their prices were cheaper, so I think it really caught on to the whole community," Mattern said.

The advertising connects the state's German heritage, food and a sense of grandma, which appeals to a lot of people, she said.

"One of the things that an ad constantly strives for is to become a cultural phenomenon," Mattern said. " 'Sit down and eat' really has become that."

Hedin, now 84, said she tried out for the part to do something different.

"It's been a lot of fun because, wherever I go, I don't go no place where the people don't recognize me," she said. "And they always say, 'The Kroll lady is here.' 'The Kroll lady.' I hear that so many times."

Hedin said she misses her fellow Kroll's lady because they had a good time working together. She advises the next Kroll's lady to be funny and to talk a lot. Hedin will continue to be part of Kroll's advertising after a new public figure is found, Finch said.

The current Kroll's ladies have appeared at diner promotions, but the job primarily involves making TV commercials and having their images become part of menus and other diner décor, Glatt said. Kroll's has five locations in Bismarck, Mandan, Fargo and Minot.

The contest winner or winners will be compensated for their time, Finch said.

"It's really more about sort of the prestige of being the Kroll's lady," she said. "This is something that makes you almost instantly famous in the region as a very recognizable public figure."

Anyone interested in applying can go online to between now and Oct. 4.

H2M will also do a live casting call on Sept. 29 in downtown Fargo during Fargo Fest. Those interested can audition starting at 4:30 p.m. at a booth near the Radisson.

A panel of judges will narrow all of the applications and then the public can vote to pick their favorites at starting the second week in October, Finch said.

A commercial featuring the winner or winners will begin airing in late November.