Hometown Bakeries

Made in America, Odd Jobs, People, This Week in History, Traditions
on September 22, 2010
Ed Lallo Ross and Todd Granzin present a platter of cookies, doughnuts and pastries made at Texas oldest bakery.

The scent of fresh-from-the-oven breads and pastries makes Michael Krause breathe a little deeper as he steps inside Naegelins Bakery in New Braunfels, Texas (pop. 36,494).

Bear claws are my favorite, says Krause, 52, as he orders one of the golden-brown fried and glazed pastries. When I was a kid in Sunday school, wed always stop by here afterward and thats what Id get.

Krauses grandparents and great-grandparents also savored pastries and breads from NaegelinsTexas oldest bakerywhich has a history as rich and deep as the chunky apple filling in its famous 2-foot-long strudels. German immigrant Edouard Naegelin, a Civil War veteran, opened the bakery with a sack of flour and less than a dollar to his name in 1868, and the aroma of fresh-baked goodies has lured customers to the same downtown corner in New Braunfels since 1870.

Naegelin would be proud of how this place is still going, says Todd Granzin, 48, who owns the bakery with his brothers Ross, 46, and Jeff, 47. Their father, Wilburn, bought the bakery in 1980 from the Naegelin family, and for years the Granzins lived in an apartment above the business, as did the Naegelins before them.

The bakery has survived the Depression and two world wars and has stuck to the same simple recipe for apple strudel, says Todd about the bakerys signature dessert.

Naegelins sells 25,000 apple, peach and cherry strudels each year, as well as thousands of other temptationscoffeecakes, cream puffs, kolaches, fried pies, and four kinds of German cookies: pfeffernusse, springerle, lebkuchen and molassesthat fill the store shelves and glass cases. The bakerys cakes have starred at thousands of birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other celebrations.

The smells are our best advertising, says Todds son, Derek, 24, who delivers the baked goods to local restaurants and supermarkets, and is among the youngest Granzins to work in the historic bakery.

Tradition on the rise
Pride in carrying on the tradition of a hometown bakery is shared by Ginny Kirchhoff Elmore, 36, whose great-great-grandfather Franz Kirchhoff, a Prussian immigrant, opened Kirchhoffs Bakery in 1873 in Paducah, Ky. (pop. 26,307). The bakery closed in 1957 and 40 years later, Ginny helped her father, Louis Kirchhoff, reopen the family business in the same downtown building near the Ohio River.

By 4 a.m. six days a week, Ginny is busy baking tarts, cakes and pies and shaping loaves of bread, including the familys trademark Big Boy white bread, which Franz first sold for a nickel a loaf. As soon as Franz heard the whistle of a riverboat, hed load his cart with hot loaves of bread and rush to greet the travelers.

Old-timers come in and say, I remember the day that so-and-so and I bought a Big Boy with a stick of butter, says Ginny, who was 23 when her father heard that the old brick building was for sale and proposed reviving the family bakery.

I wanted to bring back the art of baking, says Louis Kirchhoff, 69, who grew up in the business and remembers its heyday in the 1940s and 50s when a fleet of 10 trucks delivered baked goods to grocery stores within a 50-mile radius.

Ginny loved the idea and earned a culinary degree from Sullivan University in Louisville. Today, her daughter, Madeline, 9, helps decorate cookies and wait on customers.

When you walk into this building, theres such a feeling of family, Ginny says. We have old family photos on the wall.

One of Kirchhoffs regular customers, Anne Graham, 82, arrives about 8:30 a.m. each weekday to eat a cinnamon scone and drink coffee with friends. Her pooch, Koda, patiently waits outside for his bakery dog biscuit.

I cant say enough about how much the bakery means to me, Graham says. When you get older, you need a support community.

She relishes the bakerys vollkornbrot, too. Its a dense moist whole-grain bread made with molasses and wonderful to eat with cream cheese, Graham says.

New appreciation for old recipes
Hometown bakeries across America are discovering a new appreciationand hearty appetitefor their time-tested recipes.

Were an old-fashioned bakery, and the recipes here are classics, says Carrie Schubert, 51, owner of Beaverton Bakery in Beaverton, Ore. (pop. 76,129). The glass cases of the 1925 bakery are stocked with ever-popular treats such as banana bread, cinnamon bread, French pastries, coffeecakes and doughnuts, which are baked around-the-clock.

Schubert supervises 85 employees but still finds time to decorate cakes, which has been her favorite part of the business since she was 14. Her father, Charles Schubert, 77, bought the bakery in 1965 after working there since 1952.

Our maple bars are famous, she adds. When President Kennedy would come to Portland, his staff would come and get them for him.

Old-fashioned favorites also are fashionable at Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City, Tenn. (pop. 1,679), founded in 1902 by Swiss immigrants John and Louise Baggenstoss.

One of the neatest things I make is a dense old-time salt-rising bread, says owner Cindy Day, 51, who bakes 15 varieties of made-from-scratch bread using mixers, dough cutters and a brick hearth oven dating to the early 1900s.

I want people to taste and see the history, says Day, who offers bakery tours and bread-baking lessons. How else would people know about the yummy breads from recipes from way back?

In Niagara Falls, N.Y. (pop. 55,593), residents have followed their noses to Di Camillo Bakery for Italian scaletta, a curly loaf bread, since 1920.

Thats our signature piece, says Michael Di Camillo, 60, a third-generation owner. Thats the same bread weve been making for 90 years.

Today, 10 family members continue the tradition at five local bakeries, where they turn out cakes, coffeecakes, doughnuts, cannolis, custard puffs, cream horns, breads and pizzas. Their biscotti is famous nationwide and sold online and at retail stores, including Neiman Marcus.

Part of our success has come from the tenacity of the owners, Di Camillo says. I remember lean times in the 1950s when everything was supermarket bakeries and Wonder Bread. Now, luckily the world is coming around to us.

All of a sudden, its quite fashionable and desirable to have a handmade loaf of bread, Di Camillo says.