During the first year of publication, beginning with the inaugural issue in March 1987, Modern Baking covered nine retail and in-store bakeries, six foodservice operations, a specialty wholesale bakery and a culinary school. For this anniversary issue, the editors selected a few of those operations to catch up with to see where they are today. Unsurprisingly, all of the businesses have undergone some major changes in the past quarter century.
Wuollet Bakery, Minneapolis
In May 1987 when Modern Baking first covered Wuollet Bakery, the Twin Cities operation had two locations and was run by bothers Ben and Jim Wuollet. Their father, Reino, had opened the bakery in 1944 before they purchased it in 1971. At the time, the bakery was divided between its bread business and its specialty cakes, decorating about 500 cakes every week.
The biggest influence on the business then was the introduction of the two-income family, which opened the door to fancier, specialty products. Then, as now, all products were made from scratch. “The thing that’s cool for us is that we have always been a very traditional bakery; we’ve always baked from scratch. The bread that we bake tonight, we sell tomorrow. Our product is always less than 24 hours old when it’s sold and hopefully consumed,” says Mike Jurmu, grandson of Reino and one of the current third generation owners.
Mike, along with his brother Jim Jurmu and cousin Doug Wuollet currently operate the family business. In 1990, the business expanded to a third location and has since added three more, with the most recent being a store on Minneapolis’ skyway.
The product line has changed over the years. Coffee was added in the early ’90s, bread sales are down compared to where they were in 1987, but sweetgoods, like tortes and donuts, are up, Jurmu says. The bakery makes about 25 percent more decorated cakes now than it did in 1987. “The fact is that back in those days our bakery was such a destination location for decorated cakes. People came from around the city to get them,” Jurmu adds. “When we added locations, we added much more walk in traffic– more spontaneous sales–not so much the decorated cake business.”
A popular item in 1987 was the souffle cake, split layers of sponge cake filled with cream or fruit fillings, and an 8-in. cake cost $18. That same cake is still available today, but now it costs $32.95.
In the past 25 years, the bakeries have added lunch items, which also are made from scratch in the locations. But the key tenet of the business has remained the same.
“I remember my grandfather and uncles emphasizing that everything we sell, we make,” Jurmu says. “So, we’re trying to live by those words. Those are old-fashioned ideas but for us it’s something we can understand and we need to do.”
Mazur’s Bakery, Lyndhurst, N.J.
Father-son team John Mazur Sr. and John Mazur Jr. offered 1,000 products in their retail bakery when Modern Baking covered Mazur’s Bakery, Lyndhurst, N.J., in November 1987–the year the bakery celebrated its 50th anniversary. Today, Mazur’s Bakery still offers 1,000 different products on a daily basis, but it has come under new ownership. Joe Spiekermann purchased the bakery from the Mazurs in 2003. Spiekermann is a third generation baker and had recently sold his bakery.
According to the 1987 article, the Mazurs spent $12,000 a year on advertising in the Yellow Pages and about the same on cable TV commercials. Spiekermann still advertises the bakery. “I’m doing a lot more advertising,” he says. “It took me a few years to figure this out, but I’m not advertising in the big newspapers, I’m advertising in the community papers that are delivered right into the homes of the people in my surrounding area. That’s where the bulk of my business comes from is the six or seven neighboring towns.”
No matter the owner, the bakeryhas always featured deeply discounted product promotions. The Mazurs would occasionally offer hard rolls for 25 cents a dozen or slash prices in half in 1987. Spiekermann also will run deep discounts on an item as a loss leader to get people in the store. “I get the people in the store and almost 90 percent of them are buying something else too,” he says. He recently ran a promotion for 50 percent off Irish soda bread to remind customers that they needed it for St. Patrick’s Day. Closer to the holiday, the product went back to its regular price.
While Mazur’s Bakery has always had a small wholesale business and Spiekermann’s previous baking experience was mostly in wholesale bakeries, he tries to keep the focus on retail. “Retail isn’t as strong as it used to be, and I’m trying to supplement what I lost in retail with wholesale,” he says. “But retail always is my bread and butter.”
Michel’s Bakery Café, Ontario, Canada
Michel’s Baguette was just two years old when Modern Baking covered it in October 1987, having been formed as a joint venture between Sara Lee Corp. and mmmarvelous mmmuffins inc. Michel’s Baguette merged with Cookie Factory of America shortly thereafter, which also brought on French Baker, Tiffany Bakery and various derivations of the Cookie Factory. A year later, the company sold 23 Michel’s Baguette and French Baker locations to Vie de France to transition toward developing smaller café-style outlets.
In 1987, the company had 55 franchised and seven company-owned bakeries. Capitalizing on the popularity of foodservice-style baking and the ever-expanding daypart of the late 1980s, Michel’s added three Michel’s Bakery Café locations. A 4-oz. muffin retailed for $0.99 and the oh-so-popular cinnamon roll cost $1.25.
Purchased in 2001 by Timothy’s Coffees, Michel’s continued to operate under the name Michel’s Baguette until Bruegger’s Enterprises bought the company along with Timothy’s and mmmarvelous mmmuffins in 2009.
In March 2011 Groupe Le Duff acquired Bruegger’s and Threecaf Brands Canada Inc., which owns Michel’s–a move that created the world’s second-largest bakery café operator. Michel’s has since revitalized its operations and changed its name to Michel’s Bakery Café. With a new store design and logo, Michel’s Bakery Café has 14 locations in Ontario with plans to grow.
Today, cinnamon rolls retail for $2.89, and muffins, which are no longer sold in every store, cost $1.79. The brand is best known for its butter, chocolate and almond croissants, says Threecaf’s senior brand manager Erica Gale. She adds that the company continues to adapt to changing customer preferences through limited-time offers. “LTOs allow us to inject flavor and product innovation into our menus for short periods of time throughout the year. If a product is successful during an LTO period, it may become a core item on our standard menu.”
T.J. Cinnamons, Atlanta
When Modern Baking profiled T.J. Cinnamons in May 1987, the cinnamon roll craze was sweeping the nation. Cinnabon wasn’t yet a household name, and two-year-old T.J. Cinnamons had expanded from Ted and Joyce Rice selling their homemade cinnamon rolls from a mobile bakery unit to seven company-owned bakeries with 100 franchise locations in operation. Average annual sales per location topped out at $550,000, but competition in this growing market was fierce, with 375 retail and foodservice competitors jumping on the cinnamon roll bandwagon. At that time a cinnamon roll retailed for $1.25 on average.
By 1988, the chain had 247 bakery locations. But a declining economy, inexperienced franchisees and lower traffic led to significant store closures in the years that followed. By 1996, only 47 T.J. Cinnamons locations remained. That year, roast beef sandwich restaurant chain Arby’s LLC bought the struggling company, absorbing the brand into its breakfast/ snack/dessert offerings.
In 2008, Arby’s purchased quick-service chain Wendy’s for around $2 billion.
Today, the T.J. Cinnamons brand name remains attached to its flagship cinnamon rolls, along with cinnamon twists, pecan sticky buns and coffee products on Arby’s menu.
The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.
Modern Baking profiled The Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) flagship Hyde Park, N.Y., campus in August 1987, when the cost of a two-year associate degree was $14,000. The 30-week baking and pastry certificate had just been established, and construction of the East Wing had been completed to accommodate continuing education, though nearly all campus activities took place in Roth Hall. More than one-quarter of formal CIA placements went to bakers and pastry chefs. The faculty consisted of 90 chefs and instructors and facilities included 19 kitchens, five bakeshops, three restaurants and a 27,000-volume library.
“When I came in 1984, the CIA was more of a pure vocational, tech school where you could learn good hands-on skills, graduate and land in a restaurant,” says Tom Vaccaro, dean of the baking and pastry program and 1985 graduate. “Today’s grad goes into communication, distribution, specialization, entrepreneurship–we are branching out in so many different ways and we’re dipping into every aspect of food-related issues that are out there.”
A separate major for baking and pastry launched in 1990; the bachelor’s program was created four years later. Today, the CIA has three campuses across the United States in New York, California and Texas with another location in Singapore. The Hyde Park campus has 140 faculty members, and facilities include 32 kitchens, nine bakeshops, five restaurants (one sustainable and one bakery café) and an 84,000-volume library. “After we added the bachelor’s program, we needed more volumes about management and humanities,” Vaccaro adds.
Most baking and pastry programs are taught in the East Wing. The campus also has a separate recreational center, four dorms, six townhouse-style residence halls and an education annex with lecture classes, such as culinary math.
The baking program also is undergoing a makeover. “We are halfway through our transition of changing the curriculum for baking and pastry,” Vaccaro says. “We added some really exciting classes, including confectionary art and special occasion cakes, high-end chocolates and equipment technologies. We are also getting really focused on plated desserts due to their greater focus in fine-dining restaurants.”
Au Bon Pain, Boston
By August of 1987, Au Bon Pain (ABP), the Boston-based bakery café chain that had begun as a way to showcase French ovens in the United States in 1976 had grown to 45 locations in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and Washington, D.C. The locations were primarily in urban office or commercial centers. The company had recently been reorganized and was poised for more growth.
The company went public in 1991, which funded a series of acquisitions that tripled the chain’s locations. In 1992, ABP purchased Warburton’s Bakery Café Inc. with more than 100 locations and the 21-unit Saint Louis Bread Co., followed by the acquisition of ABP Midwest, a 19-unit franchisee based in Madison, Wis. During the 1990s, the chain also went international, opening locations in Chile, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.
By the end of 1995, the St. Louis Bread chain had nearly tripled to 59 stores and ABP was in the midst of another reorganization. In 1999, ABP (later renamed Panera Bread Co.) sold its Au Bon Pain units to Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., which then sold them to Compass Group in 2000. Management purchased 75 percent of the company in 2005 with Compass Group retaining the remaining 25 percent. Last year, Au Bon Pain began a major remodeling effort with a new sandwich bar and salad station and a redesign of the café layout to speed service. Employees use iPads to hasten ordering. “Au Bon Pain has established a strong record of performance, and we continue to innovate and invest in order to improve the quality and convenience of our guest experience,” said Sue Morelli, Au Bon Pain’s CEO in a company release. “Au Bon Pain has been serving guests for 33 years, but this may be the most exciting time in our history as we expand Au Bon Pain into a national brand.”