Rusty Old Bake Shop Sign

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.

Self portrait with family heirloom. Photo by Bakery Boy.

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.

9 responses to “Rusty Old Bake Shop Sign

  1. I really enjoyed this story, I love old signs too.

  2. Joe – I am glad you had that surprise when you visited with Nick and Jen in June. I love the blog, you have done a great job!

  3. Damn, nice post, Joe. I like the photo as well as the writing.

  4. Beautiful post Joe. So happy to see the website and to see you worked the sign in as documentation of your trip up in New York!

  5. Wow. What a cool web page here, and what a great adventure. A bake shop I loved was in Wasilla, AK. They made ricotta cookies. I’ve called them since I moved away 16 years ago to get the recipe, and they won’t release it. If you come across one please send it my way. Good luck on your visits. P.S. Owning a bakery has always been a dream of mine.

  6. Nice post. Enjoyed reading it. Glad to know a bit more of your family’s bakery too. I’m headed to Morgantown and Fairmont tomorrow. Are there any good bakeries I should go to in either place?

  7. What a great story! I’m so glad the sign is still in the family. I love the shot of you reflected in the mirror under the sign.

  8. Wonderful story! When on our New England trip we stopped in the MA town where my father’s family first came to America. At one point in the late 1700’s the family home (torn down in 1888) was also an inn. I’ve since learned that the inn sign is in a museum in a nearby town. A great excuse for a return trip!

  9. Imagine my surprise to Google search Old Dutchess Bakery in Charleston, WV and find your sign. I believe my great-grandfather, Clarence Huling Hudnall, worked at this bakery from at least 1952-1958 as he is listed as a baker there in the Charleston City directories. I am blogging on my family history and was doing research for his story when I came across this. If it is where he worked, it is special to me as well to see the sign he might have walked under every day on his way into work. Can you tell me where the bakery is located and if it is in its original location? My dad & I are planning a trip soon and we would love to add this to our list of places to check out.

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