Feature

About a Few Great Bakeries

Bakeries are popular places. They smell great. They are full of wonderful things to eat, from crusty breads to gooey and sweet treats. And they often become neighborhood meeting places, where bakers work hard and where people often leave with good feelings as well as fresh baked goods. In this documentary, we celebrate A Few Great Bakeries across America, never claiming that this is a list of “Best Bakeries” but rather just a few warm ones worth checking out.

We look at a simple Italian bread bakery that’s been a beloved spot in Syracuse, New York, since it opened in 1895. Called the Columbus Baking Company, it is now owned and run by Jimmy Retzos and his family, and their various daily-made loaves are golden brown and delicious in several different shapes.

On Martha’s Vineyard, at Orange Peel Bakery, Julie Vanderhoop and her assistants make beautiful biscuits, breads, cookies and such in a wood-fired oven. On Wednesday evenings, that oven also gets heated up for Pizza Night, a community event when everyone is encouraged to bring their own toppings.

At Minerva Bakery in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, the Monezis family has been supplying their neighbors with many sorts of quality fresh items, from Eastern European paska bread to iced coffee-cakes and cream-filled ladylocks, since 1923.

But even an unusual bakery like Mahoroba Japanese Bakery in Sacramento, California, founded in 2009, can quickly become a popular spot for yummy foods—savory as well as sweet—and for getting together with friends over coffee and a Kobe cream pastry.

In Lafayette, Indiana, at Mama Ines Mexican Bakery, we find churros and tres leches cakes and many other Mexican favorites, and, as you would south of the border, you help yourself with tongs and a tray to all the goodies that you want to buy.

We visit the Standard Baking Company in Portland, Maine, founded twenty years ago by Matt James and Alison Pray who were inspired by bakeries in France. Their bakers are renowned for crunchy baguettes, naturally yeasted breads and some tasty Morning Buns.

At Sluy’s Bakery in Poulsbo, Washington, you can choose any number of donuts and cakes from the counters, but the bakers here make a cinnamon roll filled with cream cheese icing that they call a “Viking Cup.” It’s worth the trip to Poulsbo.

Sometimes a bakery can be founded on the strength of one single product like Rhonda Jones’s rum cake. In Durham, North Carolina, Rhonda has created a mobile business called Chez Moi Bakery that’s a food truck—she often calls it a “dessert truck” — moving around town, selling slices of her homemade specialty.

In Juneau, Alaska, the Silverbow Bakery traces its history back to the 1890s, making this the oldest bakery in the state. Owner and manager Jill Ramiel and her staff make and sell classic boiled-then-baked New-York-style bagels, turning this place a popular breakfast spot.

We also stop in Missoula, Montana, where Christine Littig now owns the much loved business called Bernice’s Bakery. The staff here creates and decorates many baked goods, while the front of the house attracts a regular morning crowd and a busy lunchtime clientele.

All of these places seem connected by early mornings, long hours of hard work, delicious products and customers who love them. We happily celebrate these few bakeries and hope that everyone will be inspired to look for more great ones all across America.

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