There was a time when it seemed like every intersection in Omaha had its own bakery, and sometimes more than one. A mother would hand her child a nickel to go buy two loaves of bread, and he would get in trouble for buying a dozen donuts instead. This is a history of bakeries in North Omaha.
There have been countless bakeries located in North Omaha over the last 160 years. There was a time when every neighborhood had one or more to provide baked goods of all types, including bread, pies and other desserts. Dessert shops were called confectionaries. Starting as small scale, family-owned businesses, some of these bakeries grew to become industrial scale operations, while others were bought by large conglomerates, and others simply closed like normal businesses do.
There were family bakeries and investment bakeries, as well as ethnic bakeries for the Scandinavians, Jews, and Italians in North Omaha, along with commercial bakeries that only baked for grocery stores and restaurants. Most stayed small and didn’t last more than a decade, but a few became large operations, and fewer still were bought by conglomerates that melded into today’s mega-brands.
It can be hard to imagine, but there was a time when every bakery sold its own brand of bread, along with fine pastries and other baked goods. Some bakers specialized, and some where generalists who offered everything. Originally setting up their shops on the corners of major intersections where other businesses were, eventually they were located near almost every streetcar stop along the routes that criss-crossed the community.
Considering the number of major streets and intersections north of Dodge Street to the county line and east of North 72nd Street to the river, it would be nearly impossible to list every single bakery in the history of North Omaha. I have found at least 40 bakeries existed in the Near North Side neighborhood from the 1860s through the early 1960s. Miller Park, Kountze Place, Bedford Place, Saratoga, and the Walnut Hill/ Orchard Hill neighborhoods had their own bakeries. There were also neighborhood bakeries in Dundee, Florence, North 45th and Military Avenue, Gifford Park, Benson, Central Park, and other locations throughout the community.
Following is a summary of some of them.
One local bakery chain was called Kuenne’s Bakery, and after starting south of downtown in the 1910s, they opened a new store at 4106 North 24th in the 1950s. In 1961, they opened a shop in the new Ames Plaza, and closed by the 1970s.
Another local shop was the Kenwood Pastry Bakery at 30th and Ames for several decades, offering desserts and other baked goods for almost 40 years.
The Adler family and the Forbes family were Jews who ran several bakeries throughout North Omaha. The Forbes Bakery was started by Isadore Forbes on North 24th and Lake Streets, and moved to 24th and Miami to become Adler and Forbes Bakery. Then Adler opened a new bakery near 24th and Decatur, and the original location became the Ak-Sar-Ben Bakery. Then Forbes opened a bakery in Dundee.
Throughout the last 140 years, North 24th Street has been home to literally dozens of bakeries. In 1903, George Frithgof Wilberg opened a bakery at 1829 North 24th. It closed in 1917. Thomas Francis Mulligan (1851-1920) was a popular baker at North 24th and Parker for more than two decades.
P. F. Petersen opened up a one-man bakery at North 24th and Cuming around 1887. His loafs were called Peter Pan bread, and became popular throughout the city and beyond. Around 1910, the bakery was merged with three others to form the Union Pacific Steam Baking Company, which built a factory at North 30th and Wirt. In 1930, the company changed its name back to the Petersen Baking Company and started selling Peter Pan Bread. From 1926 to 1964, the Peterson’s Bakery served the neighborhood around North 24th and Lake, another around 24th and Fort Street, and several other locations, too.
North 16th Street was a popular site for bakeries, too. The Home Bakery started on North 16th in the 1880s, moved to North 24th and by 1911 was located at 2505 North 31st until the 1930s. The J and G Bakery was located in the Corby Theatre building at North 16th and Corby for several decades, as well.
Another major strip in North Omaha is Cuming Street, and it had many bakeries along its distance from North 10th Street to the Northwest Radial Highway. The Dazell Confectionary Company sold desserts at 1824 Cuming Street, and the Jay Burns Bakery was located at Florence Boulevard and Cuming Street.
There were major baking factories in North Omaha, too. Peter Pan Bread, a famous brand of bread sold across the Midwest, was invented in North Omaha, and Wonder Bread was manufactured in North Omaha for decades.
The Jay Burns Baking Company built the building at 2015 Cuming Street in 1906. The company also ran a pie factory at North 24th and Grant for a decade until 1913. The Continental Baking Company acquired Burns’ company in the 1930s, and started manufacturing Wonder Bread and eventually Hostess Products there. They moved in the 1980s, and the building has been used as storage since.
One of the largest was the Omar Baking Company, located at North 45th and Hamilton Streets, their plant notably sprawled across several blocks. Their advertisements and deliverymen were iconic, remaining burned in the memories of many several decades after they closed. The building stands today.
It all came to an end though. Automation and refrigeration, along with increased use of preservatives and other additives to baked goods, drove down the demand for local bakeries. Mom-and-pop operations closed without being passed on or sold, and the neighborhood bakeries around North Omaha closed up shop.
There has been a recent resurgence in love for locally-concocted baked goods. Artisan breads from local bakers are coming to grocery stores, but North Omaha has yet to see any new bakeries open in the old locations that used to be so packed with them.
Maybe someday… but in the meantime, what do you remember? Please help me improve this article and share the names and your memories of bakeries from your North Omaha neighborhood in the comments section!
You Might Like…
- History of Iten-Barmettler Biscuit Company
- History of Uncle Sam Breakfast Cereal
- History of Restaurants, Diners and Food Businesses in North Omaha