This rusty old bake shop sign marked my family’s bakery for generations. So where is it now?
by Bakery Boy
I must have passed under that rusty and dented old bake shop sign a million times, starting from before it got quite so rusty and dented and old. It was mounted above the back door of my family’s Dutchess Bakery in Charleston, West Virginia. It faced an alley where delivery trucks idled while dropping off flour, sugar, salt, and other ingredients or picking up fresh breads, cakes, donuts, and cookies. That sign hung for decades in silent witness as an endless parade of bakery employees, friends, night-shift cops, salesmen, and miscellaneous characters came and went.
At the time I probably didn’t notice it much. I didn’t need a sign to tell me where I went nearly every day of my life. Only when it disappeared, leaving a rectangle of paint faded to a different shade, did I suddenly feel an urgent need to see that familiar heirloom again.
Had it been stolen, I wondered? Did someone sneak it to a pawnshop for quick cash or slip it to an antiques dealer with a made-up story about its origins? Would it turn up as rustic décor in some themed restaurant? Had my brother Ed, who runs the bakery these days, stashed it away to protect it from thieves? I should have asked him directly, but because I’m the brother who left the business to pursue a writing career, I really don’t have as strong a claim to such keepsakes and didn’t want to appear covetous.
Two years after realizing how much I missed that rust-pocked bit of nostalgia, I found it, and I believe it’s in a good place.
I was in New York City visiting bakeries worth featuring on this website, and I dropped in on my nephew Nick, the younger son of my brother the baker. He grew up working in the same bakery as me and probably passed under that battered and weathered sign just as often as I did.
Nick is an architect now working to preserve the grand and venerable Park Avenue Armory built in the 1870s near Central Park. He has a keen eye, an artistic style, and a genuine appreciation for history, including our family’s history. A newlywed living in a basement apartment, he has the sign, a gift from his father, mounted above a bedroom dresser and mirror, where he no doubt sees it every day.
I’m glad that rusty old bake shop sign is still in the family and watching over a flesh-and-blood direct descendant of our scattered bakery clan. I’m especially glad I once again know where to find it—so every now and then I can go enjoy a memory-stirring glimpse.