Think back 5, 10, 15 years, and try to remember all of the mom and pop retail bakeries that existed. In every ethnic neighborhood, you had the Jewish Bakery, the German Bakery, the Italian Bakery and so on. My dad once owned eight bakeries in various neighborhoods throughout the Philadelphia area. Remember the signs in the store windows: “Fresh bread”, “Fresh cakes”, “Butter cookies”, “All Baking Done on Premises.” Those were the days. Bakery owners did the actual baking; they woke early and started baking way before the sun came up. Freezers were small, as there was no need to freeze racks of cake, cookies, and pies. Who ever heard of using a premade mix? Ha, Ha, just add water and mix. Even funnier, today the joke is who ever heard of scratch baking! Remember the names of the bakeries? My dad’s name is Arthur. His bakeries were called, (guess), Arthur’s Bakery. The names reflected who owned the store, not what large corporation owned the store.

So, where did all the bakeries go? In no particular order, here are my answers.

1. The Big Box Store Effect: 15 years ago the products that the Supermarkets and Wholesale Clubs put out were lousy. Through the years their product has gotten much better, still nowhere near as good as a retail bakery can put out, but good enough. I am in the bakery supply business, so I really try to support the “mom & pops” but here’s the thing… Junior is turning 3 and I need a cake. We’ve invited 25 of Junior’s best and closest preschool buddies. My wife calls the local bakery and orders a ½ sheet cake, the price is $35.00, and she then calls a warehouse club and finds out that their price is $19.87. Will the preschoolers really care what their piece of cake tastes like? Should I save $15.00 or spend an extra $15.00 in order to support the local retailer? gluten free bakery in Salem

2. Who Wants to Work so Hard? Growing up, my father worked so many hours. I rarely saw him during a holiday season, up and gone by the time I woke up for school, and when I got home from school he was either still at work, or catching up on sleep. Phone calls in the middle of the night, the mixer broke, the driver didn’t have money to cross the bridge, the store was robbed, and then there was the fistfight in the parking lot. The police were called. Who needs that? Ok so we did all right, but the family was certainly not “rich” by any means. My dad made most of his money from the sale of the properties that the bakeries rested on.

3. College: So the bakery was doing ok, and papa baker wanted his offspring to have a better life, so he sends Junior off to college. Well, when Junior graduates college, he doesn’t want to go back in the family business and split the profits with his dad. Junior is better off working in industry or buying a Dunkin Donuts, which brings me to point #4.

4. They Never Really Left, Just Changed to Specialty Shops: Well we have, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Panera Bread, Cupcake Only Shops, etc. The combined bakery goods selling now is much higher than it was, and this is not only due to population growth, it’s due to sexy marketing by the fast food chain stores. Hey, I can stop at the mom and pop bakery and get a muffin for breakfast, or I can stop at Starbucks and overpay for the muffin and coffee. I’ll choose Starbucks, because I love to be hip.

5. Convenience Stores, Especially Those with Drive-Through-Windows: Pick up smokes and a bagel, in and out in a minute or two. I remember my dad’s shops had the cigarette machines and the patrons had to put quarters in it. If you didn’t have the change, then you had to go to the counter and wait for the cashier to break a dollar or two for you. Now, they swipe their debit cards for a $1.98 sale. Who carries cash anymore? So now, Mr. Retail baker can’t hide his cash as easily anymore. The “cash” was a perk which was unspoken about.