The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Some Bakery History

Grandpa Larry's picture
Grandpa Larry

Some Bakery History

Here's an item I just scavenged out of my memory.

I grew up during the 1950's in a mostly immigrant, Jewish neighborhood in Cleveland.  Our next door neighbors, who I'll call Mr and Mrs Jakov (not their real names) owned and operated a small Jewish bakery on Union Avenue, a mostly African American neighborhood which had once been the heart of the city's Jewish life in the 1930's and 1940's. Union Ave. had changed and our neighbors, now tired and middle age, had neither the money or the energy to follow the Jewish migration uptown.

Other things were changing as well. A few forward thinking supermarket owners were opening superstores: grocery stores with in store delis and bakeries. One of the most progressive of them was the Fazio chain of stores. Mr. Jakov accepted an offer from Fazios to close his small shop and work as a master baker for that company. He took with him his many years of experience as well as his recipes and knowledge.

He later related to my father that other former small bake shop had owners gone to work there and had contributed their recipes as well.

For the next couple of decades Fazios as well as a couple of other local supermarkets had superb bread of all sorts in their bakeries. Now just about all of these markets are gone, absorbed into bigger out of town chains. The breads in those in store bakeries are the same mass produced loaves that everyone else sells.

For a few years, though, you really could get a good loaf of rye or Italian bread at a supermarket around here. The taste may have reminded you of a small, family bakery on Union Ave.



dsadowsk's picture

My grandfather was a baker in Cleveland, though AFAIK he did not own a bakery there -- he did own a bakery later in Syracuse after he moved there from Cleveland. Syracuse groceries did not fold in local bakers as you describe in Cleveland. My grandfather operated his bakery until the land was taken by eminent domain for an expressway, and he decided to retire at that point.

lepainSamidien's picture


Although time separates us by several generations, I feel a nostalgia (or tesknota, a sort of bittersweet yearning) for a past through which I haven't even lived, which remains accessible to me only in the form of narratives, through the recollections of others, those usually embittered by the heavy, unmitigated swelling of corporations.

However, I think that fora like TFL (and lots of others out there), as well as sundry DIY movements picking up steam in urban centers (I know in NYC, there has been an explosion in demand for small-scale, artisanal, quirky production--cheese, pickles, beer, bread), indicate a shift in the public consciousness, which (I believe and hope) will manifest concrete change in business structures. I think corporations have seen their high-tide, but the tide is ebbing, and the watermark becoming more visible and pronounced. Perhaps mass production is going out of style; perhaps industrialization has arrived at its apogee, and progress will take us, by an ironic turn, back to the old ways. I think now that we've seen what happens when we invest entirely our trust, as consumers, in corporations: crappy, tasteless bread.

But it seems like you, and the lot of folk stalking this forum, are fighting back, and it's great ! Happy will be the day when we can say "Au revoir!" to the fetters of an over-kneaded consumerism !

To me, your attempt to recapture that delicious Jewish rye bread is the best step in the right direction. Bake on !

dabrownman's picture

some of the very best 'Artisan"bakeries in American and around the world are in fact... eegads.....evil corporations!  Even Mom and pop bakeries are corporations too.  The reason why is quite simple...added personal protection for the person who owns the business to keep people from being able to sue them personally over some business dispute.    Corporations aren't the problem and never have been - it's the people that run them that can be the problem.

Funny how facts get in the way of extremism.  TFL is about folks wanting to talk about bread not some insane idea about how corporations and capitalism are evil. Take that to some politiclly extreme website!

Happy baking 

Grandpa Larry's picture
Grandpa Larry

My post had nothing whatsoever to do with criticizing corporations, it was just a few recollections I had about events that took place a half century ago. I don't recall saying anything about capitalism and corporations.

I'm too old and uninterested to engage in discussions about the effects that grocery store consolidation has on the bread we eat.

I do, however, have pleasant memories about the bread I remember from the family owner bakeries I grew up with. Many of them were, and are corporations.

So what? It's the taste of their baked goods, not their politics I recall.

dabrownman's picture

not about your post which i found to be interesting, entertaining, informative and I enjoyed reading it.  My comment was directed at the reply commentor that my comment was posted directly under and no one else. 

lepainSamidien's picture

You'll have to excuse the lack of clarity, an excess of vitriol, that characterized my earlier comment. Perhaps I could blame the digression on the French Press (at the time, drunk to the dregs), but that would be a monstrous injustice.

I suppose that, reading over it again, my comment was misplaced, and the energies of my sentiment found expression in a poor choice of words. What I intended by the term "corporations" was the big guys--the mega-marts--that have, historically, trampled on the interests of small "corporations" (LLCs, etc.). However, the failure to distinguish is my fault, a failure for which I now apologize. If only I had studied Aristotle's "Categories" more closely !

Simply put, I would love to see more small, privately-owned bakeries popping up throughout the country. Under what moniker they choose to register themselves wouldn't sway me from their doors, so long as the smell beckons.

Floydm's picture

Regardless of one's political persuasion or economic views, there is no doubt that enthusiasm for "artisan" or "artisanal" crafts, be it beer brewing, bread making, or cheese making, is largely about rediscovering skills, techniques, and flavors that were largely overlooked in late twentieth century mass production of similar products.  Many of those techniques and products have since become mass produced themselves, like par-baked ciabatta or craft breweries that ship beer nationwide.  Whether those products are as good as actual handcrafted products is certainly up for debate. It is matter of personal choice whether they are worth supporting or not.  

We can all agree that a higher availability of high quality food stuffs is a good thing, yes? And that a marketplace with room for both micro-enterprise and mass availability of commodities is better than a marketplace with only one or the either?  Some see bread (or beer or cheese) as commodities that aren't worth spending any more than absolutely necessary on.  Others can choose otherwise. 

Bronze's picture

If any old-timers can help me out here, I'm on a quest for the origins of what many Americans call "Italian bread" - think Wonderbread. Like the cappuccino, it must have started out as a genuine Italian drink, then been changed bit by bit until it became a much fluffier, less healthy version of what it was. And if you go back in time only a few decades to what I guess you could say were "old-school bakeries", there were still pretty high-quality breads in this style that weren't pullman (sandwich) loaves. The original bread they were based on is eluding me. There seems to be only one distinct universal feature to clue us in; a single slit all the way down the loaf, creating the "grin" or bloom. Can anyone think of an Italian loaf with this slit, or imagine what the first "Italian" loaves sold in America would have been based off of?

tpassin's picture

A likely candidate -

pane sciocco (

These breads from Tuscany were made in a range of form factors, including ones similar to the current US supermarket's "Italian bread".  Other Tuscan breads might also have been in the ancestral line.


irononpatches's picture

very intresting