Say It's Not So: Mom And Dad Bakeries An Endangered Wisconsin Species?
Chances are you've never been to Weber's Bakery in Lodi, Wisconsin but I bet you know what it smells like on the inside.
Ain't nothing like it and, in the case of Weber's, it ain't no more.
The business closed last weekend--it'll still service wholesale clients and make its Tom and Jerry batter--and The Wisconsin State Journal says it's part of an ongoing trend in Wisconsin as more and more small towns lose their stand-alone family bakeries.
Not the kind of thing you like to hear, but one that shouldn't come as a surprise.
Supermarkets were relatively new as I was growing up in the 60's. Our meat came from Schlepekis' butcher shop which was as fun to say (shlah-PEE-kis) as their hot dogs were to eat--the old fashioned kind with casings that popped when you bit in as opposed to the skinless Oscar Mayer variety that was a birthday party staple. Groceries came from Dominski's, a small family market a few blocks away. Bread and rolls? We were a West Side Bakery family, Sheboygan pastry loyalties often decided by geography especially if you were like us and didn't have a car.
That meant a lot of trips for the basics--stop here, stop there, then on to the next place. It's the way you shopped until THE SUPERMARKET came along.
Ours was right next door, a Sentry that to me seemed like the largest building in the world, full of the most incredible array of stuff I'd ever seen. The corner store had but a few varieties of cereal but Sentry had an entire aisle where I'd spend hours deciding between different sugary varieties, my choice most often decided by which box held the best prize inside.
The supermarket provided one-stop convenience, and was a sign of things to come: the big box store that chased away the corner hardware shop, the drug store chains that led to the demise of the pharmacy down the street. It's progress, it's economics, it's supply-and-demand, survival-of-the-fittest.
And, it's the end of another era, at least when it comes to the small-town bakery.
There will be exceptions, of course. Racine's kringle-makers have products that can't be mass-replicated, regional treats that there will always be a local taste for. Same in Sheboygan, home of the only bakeries in the free world that know how to make a true semmel hard roll, a confection that makes any sandwich taste better, a bun engineered to withstand the rigors of "the double brat'. A true Sheboyganite NEVER consumes the city's signature sausage one-at-a-time on a--perish the thought--hot dog bun. Brats are eaten two at a time, side by each, on a Sheboygan hard roll which serves as a doughy holster capable of keeping the sliding links in hand even though they're greasy, slathered in condiments and topped with smothered onions.
A cruller is a cruller, but doesn't it taste better when it comes out of a glass case at Milwaukee's National Bakery as opposed to the corner Quickie-Mart? Can any aroma match that which greets your nostrils the moment you open the door at the aforementioned West Side in Sheboygan or any of the others of its ilk? Someone should turn that fragrance into a cologne.
All is not lost--Wauwatosa's Rocket Baby Bakery is opening a satellite location in Bay View, giving hope that the smaller baking operation still has a pulse amid bigger shops and bread making chains/fast casual restaurants.
Farewell, Weber's in Lodi. I never sampled your pumpkin fry cake donuts or monster cookies, but I bet they were really good. And I'm sure I know what it smelled like inside your historic walls.
It smelled like happy. At least, until the day you closed your doors for good.