Friday, July 15, 2011

The Bakery - GBE2 #8


The bakery in this story is the Elite Bakery in Glassboro, NJ, where my mother worked for at least 11 years while I was growing up. I know she still worked there when I graduated high school and only quit because she learned she had glaucoma. It was also where I got my first job. If I were to do it now, I’d enjoy it, but at the time, I hated it. I had to wear a white uniform (a dress – no pants) and white “nurse” shoes, which to a teenage girl who was just discovering fashion of any sort was like being made to wear her grandmother’s clothes (which I actually did later in life, but that’s a different story).

Mom’s first bosses were Russell and Mary D’Amico. My image of employee/employer relationships through my parents was that of true friendship. Mom and Dad were invited to their home for dinner more than once and Mary knew she could count on Mom to fill in when needed.

Later, the D’Amicos sold the bakery to Charlie and June Johnson. Charlie had worked for Russell, so he was the perfect person to keep the business alive and the dream the D’Amicos had envisioned alive.

Mom would always bring donuts home from work when she was done her night shift and we would freeze the cream donuts to keep them fresh. Dad and I would eat them right out of the freezer, they were that good. The butter-crumb cake was a type of coffee cake that was about the diameter of a medium pizza and less than an inch thick. It was topped with a streusel-like topping and in the middle of the cake was a buttery, moist layer that was my favorite part. Charlie was the one we counted on to create my son’s birthday cake for his 3rd birthday. None of the ones in the books he had on display really seemed suitable, so Charlie created one based on my explanation of an airport runway with a jet taking off at the end because Paul loved to fly so much. He loved that cake! (He’s 30 now and still loves flying.)


I think I was in Junior high school when we learned that Russell D’Amico had committed suicide. Apparently, he had invested heavily in a scheme that promised great returns and he had talked many of his friends into investing as well. When he learned that it was all a sham, he couldn’t live with the thought that he had convinced his friends to lose their money. Mom went to Mary’s side immediately.

Years later, Charlie fell from a ladder in the warehouse and had serious head damage. He tried to continue the business, but it became more and more difficult, so he eventually sold out to a larger bakery enterprise called Liscio's.

Gone were the days of the butter-cream filled donuts coated with powdered sugar, cinnamon buns heavily topped with raisins (aka sticky buns), “torpedo” rolls (I didn’t like these, but my parents LOVED them – very hard crusts and very pointy ends, the entire roll was maybe 6” in length), plenty of Italian bread with crispy crusts (you rarely find that today), the éclairs that my father loved so much and the delectable butter-crumb cake that I loved. Gone are the breads that were donated to St. Bridget's and the nuns that hadn't sold the day before.

I recently learned that the new owners sold out to a construction company who is helping the city of Glassboro completely rebuild the downtown area to tie it in to the growing Rowan University. Glassboro has long been a college town, but there was a complete disconnect between downtown and campus. It was two different worlds. Many of the old buildings and homes, including St. Bridget’s school across from the bakery, are gone to make way for an almost mall-like business center with large promenades and direct access to campus, which had not existed before, as well as extensive student housing.

Although the city had deteriorated quite a bit over the years, there were certain staples that held things together. Elite Bakery was one of them.  It’s a piece of my childhood that no longer exists. My parents are gone, the glass plant (which is how Glassboro got its name) where Dad worked is gone and now the bakery is gone. Things maybe improving economically in that small college city, but some things are lost forever.

Amazingly, there is a bakery just over the county line built with the same design as Elite’s building design. The only thing different is the name. I think I’m going to have to check them out. 

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17 Comments:

Blogger Word Nerd said...

Wow, what a history! So many of our memories are tied to a handful of meaningful places, and when things change, as they are bound to do, it takes something away.

My hometown isn't what it used to be either, which is a little sad. Where there were green areas, there are now more stores and restaurants than any town needs.

July 15, 2011 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

How cool--I haven't been through that part of Jersey in ages. I used to live in Burlington County many, many years ago...I really loved it there!

I bet it would be nice to revisit the bakery now!!

Cheers, Jenn

July 16, 2011 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger K9friend said...

What wonderful memories...I think you've got several stories there! Your description of the special goodies produced by the bakery are mouth-watering!

Pat
www.critteralley.blogspot.com

July 16, 2011 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Paula Martin said...

Great memories. I know it's called 'progress' and 'modernisation' but I always find it quite sad when long- established businesses disappear.

July 16, 2011 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Weissdorn said...

Story and photo were fantastic! I have rarely heard of a bakery with such history.

July 16, 2011 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Joyce Lansky said...

Sounds like this topic was perfect for you.

Joyce
http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

July 16, 2011 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Brenda Stevens said...

wow...what memories..truths and sadness...nothing sweet about suicide. This really touched me..and i am glad you are going to check out the new shop. Some history needs no repeating...thank you so much for sharing this

July 17, 2011 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Laurie Peel said...

Very nicely written! It made me feel sad though, because it reminds me of how we're on the wrong path. I live in an area where "progress" is accelerating - steamrollering over everything in it's way. Small family businesses are being obliterated by mega-corporations, and condos, instead of food crops, are sprouting on our prime farm land. It all feels just a little out of control!

July 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

So far behind my reading...just now catching up! I agree with progress not always being a good thing, but it is what it is and memories and photos keep us going.
Very nicely written and I loved sharing your history. C:

July 17, 2011 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger Marcie said...

Wow!! I was just saying yesterday what I would give to have any Elite Bakery. cream doughnut!!! Most people liked Pitman cream doughnuts better, but not me!! Their raisin bars & sticky buns were the best. I think I'd gone to heaven if I had those recipes!!! My oldest child is 30 & also grew up knowing the Elite Bakery. After having my third child, it was my mission upon leaving the hospital to get an Elite Bakery cream doughnut!! I want the recipes!!!!! Thanks for your great article!!!

January 26, 2012 at 11:39 PM  
Blogger Marcie said...

Wow!! I was just saying yesterday what I would give to have any Elite Bakery. cream doughnut!!! Most people liked Pitman cream doughnuts better, but not me!! Their raisin bars & sticky buns were the best. I think I'd gone to heaven if I had those recipes!!! My oldest child is 30 & also grew up knowing the Elite Bakery. After having my third child, it was my mission upon leaving the hospital to get an Elite Bakery cream doughnut!! I want the recipes!!!!! Thanks for your great article!!!

January 26, 2012 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger SJerZGirl said...

Marcie, if you ever get a chance, head on up to Westmont to the McMillan's bakery on Haddon Ave (just behind Wawa off Cuthbert). Their cream donuts don't look at all like Elite's, but they're the closest I've found ever that taste like Elites, both the filling and the donut dough. Even my dad loved them when I first discovered them. Pricey, but also about double the size - and triple the filling!!

February 29, 2012 at 11:27 AM  
Anonymous DP said...

I also loved Elite's Cream Donuts. We grew-up in the same block and we were friends with both Russell and Mary. We delivered day old bakery goods with Russell to many folks that were poor. Many times I've discussed how good the cream donuts were with my brother and sister. I believe that one of Russell's original bakers was called "Dutch". We would also like to get the recipe.

August 14, 2012 at 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved that bakery as well. I am still in search of the recipe for the bow cookies. They made them at Christmas time and were shaped like a bow with a red and green cherries. Any idea what type of cookie that was?

December 12, 2012 at 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Nancy Germano Scherer said...

I have many memories of the Elite Bakery! Russell was my great Uncle. (My grandmother,
Domenica's brother). Living in upstate NY Dad would take us every summer to the Bronx and we always went to Glassboro to see everyone.I remember sitting in the back of the bakery watching Uncle Russell and Aunt Mary decorating wedding cakes. I would watch for hours. We always left with the'day old' bakery items which were fantastic! To this day I love "crumb cake", but nothing compares to the Elite Bakery's.The death of Uncle Russell was so sad, but showed the kind of man he was, to be so upset over the investments of his friends that he felt he caused, he truly couldn't live with himself.Thanks for your Mom's stories! Nancy Germano Scherer

March 7, 2013 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Graycee Calloway said...

We went to the bakery after church every Sunday after church for cream donuts...When I got station in Germany that's all I craved for...Miss You Elite Bakery!!!

August 22, 2014 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger Walt Gee said...

butter-cream filled donuts

February 21, 2015 at 2:49 PM  

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