oldest bakery in Texas has been busy
all year preparing for their busiest season of the year. The holiday
season rush begins during the hot East
Texas summer months for Eilenberger’s Bakery, located in historic
“We have to start in the summer time,” said Eilenberger’s General
Manager Sarah Pryor. “We turn into little elves that work all summer
long so that we can produce a minimum of 60,000 cakes.”
Pryor with Texas Pecan Cake
Photo by Dana Goolsby,
|Pryor has worked
for the 112-year-old bakery for 15 years. She started as a temporary
employee over the bustling holiday season of 1995. She has worked
at nearly every level in the bakery, and worked her way up over the
years into the position she now holds. Although Pryor is the general
manager, she continues to assist in every area of the bakery.
For over a century, Eilenberger’s has been delivering baked goods
to area residents from the same location. Eilenberger’s has kept an
East Texas baking tradition
alive by not only providing favorite hometown desserts to area residents,
but by shipping East Texas
made products worldwide.
“If we can get it through customs, we will ship it to you anywhere
in the world,” said Pryor of the world famous bakery.
More manpower is required for the holiday season at the bakery, which
in turn leads to area residents being able to snag extra jobs for
extra Christmas cash.
“We are very fortunate that we get a lot of the same temporary employees
back year after year. Returning temps help train others, and enjoy
the work,” said Pryor. Eilenberger’s is capable of producing up to
2,000 cakes per day, and in order to meet their holiday quotas they
must bake at least that many. The bakery has five industrial ovens,
one of which is capable of holding 200 to 300 cakes at a time, depending
on the size of the cake.
the years, the bakery has been known to try all sorts of different
methods in order to perfect their famous recipes. For many years,
the bakery used a cement mixer in order to churn the fruitcake. According
to Pryor, the cement mixer allowed the bakery to produce fruitcakes
with large pecans because the cement mixer would not break them down
too much. The bakery has since retired the cement mixer, and bought
a hopper, which appears to be doing a fine job.
“The bakery produces thousands of fruit and nut cakes during the holiday
season, and during the weeks prior to Christmas ships between 5,000
and 7,000 cakes per day,” said Pryor. “When the bakery is in full
production we can turn out 9,000 pounds of cake per day.”
three top selling Christmas baked goods are the two-pound Texas Pecan
Cake, followed by the World Famous Fruitcake, and finally the Australian
Apricot Cake. Hundreds of Texas-shaped baking pans line the production
area of the bakery, along with hundreds of other baking pans used
to produce the delicious desserts people from every part of the world
have grown to love over the last century.
Herman Elienberger, also known as F.H., was the founder of Eilenberger’s
Bakery and through his contributions he made the rich history of Palestine
sweeter. Eilenberger, a German immigrant, began his East
Texas business endeavor in 1898 after leaving his native homeland
of Leipzig, Germany in 1881.
According to Pryor, who has researched the bakery’s history thoroughly,
Eilenberger left Germany with two things; family memories from his
native land and a treasured recipe for fruitcake. The Eilenberger
family set sail for America when Eilenberger was just a boy of four
years old. Seventeen years later, after working in Ft.
Worth and Galveston
bakeries Eilenberger founded what is now the world famous bakery in
The bakery was originally named American Home Bakery. The original
establishment burned in 1915, however, Eilenberger was determined
to continue operating his bakery at a temporary site until he rebuilt
three years later, at the current location.
The determined Eilenberger delivered bread by horse-drawn wagons until
1920. The bakery eventually evolved into a wholesale operation. By
the 1930s and 1940s, Eilenberger’s wholesale operation had expanded
and was operating with a fleet of 15 to 20 delivery trucks.
“F.H. donated food and bread to our men in the service who passed
in the troop trains. Also, during the Depression he gave out bread
tickets so that people who could not afford bread could come get day-old
bread at no charge,” said Pryor.
Eilenberger had chosen the prime location for his lasting business.
The seat of Anderson County, which was once part of Houston County,
was a major stopping point for the International and greater Northern
1949, Eilenberger sold the bakery to his sons, Fred and Herman, and
his son-in-law, Claude Westerman.
“Realizing that man could not live on bread alone, the bakery began
producing a variety of other baked goods, including fruitcake,” said
The new bakery owners, and descendants of F.H. Eilenberger, put the
German family fruitcake recipe to work for the bakery. The business
venture was successful, and in fact, it was so successful that Eilenberger’s
switched its primary product from bread to fruitcakes in 1968. According
to Pryor, the bakery made the fruitcake its primary product due to
increasing pressure from automated competitors.
By 1978, Tom Broyles, a fifth-generation Texan and the great-grandson
of Texas Gov. Thomas Mitchell Campbell, saved the bakery from closure.
Broyles purchased the bakery from the Eilenberger family, and owned
it until 1993. Broyles then sold the bakery to Silverado Foods of
Tulsa, Oklahoma. Broyles managed the bakery for Silverado Foods from
1993 to 1995.
During Broyles tenure in 1980, the Texas Pecan Cake and World Famous
Fruitcake earned Monde International Gold Medal Awards at the World
Food Selection in Brussels.
The bakery changed hands again in 1997. Centennial Foods of Atlanta,
Georgia purchased the bakery, but closed the doors a few years later.
“That is when local residents Terresa and Stephen Smith became the
owners and operators of the bakery in 2000,” said Pryor. Terresa was
dedicated to continue the bakery’s resilient history and breathed
new life into it.”
Smith was well on her way to re-instilling success at the bakery,
but fell ill and passed away in 2008. Upon Smith’s passing, Southern
Fulfillment Services, out of Vero Beach, Florida acquired the over
a century-old bakery.
“Southern Fulfillment Services already owned national catalogers Hale
Groves and Pittman & Davis, two established brands offering citrus,
specialty fruit, and gourmet food gift selections,” explained Pryor.
In order to keep the more than 100-year-old bakery thriving and to
support Eilenberger’s strategic marketing efforts, the bakery has
moved into the future by continuously maintaining an updated website.
Eilenberger’s also distributes as many as 300,000 catalogs each year,
and advertises in newspapers and magazines around the country.
|Pryor said that
much of the bakery’s business comes from word of mouth. She also elaborated
on the role local residents play in Texas’s
oldest bakery. Although Eilenberger’s is capable of shipping around
the world, and does, it has not forgotten how to serve its local customers.
“Local residents purchase an assortment of baked goods from the display
cases, or pre-order for special occasions throughout the year,” said
Bakery canned goods
Photo by Dana Goolsby,
|In addition to
Eilenberger’s selection of premium desserts, patrons may also savor
a variety of made-to-order sandwiches served on Eilenberger’s gourmet
breads, or purchase specialty items, such as canned items like apple
butter, raspberry preserves, marinated mushrooms, and garlic stuffed
Although Eilenberger’s does not use horse-drawn wagons to deliver
bread anymore, or a cement mixer to churn their famous fruitcake mix,
the determined spirit of F.H. Eilenberger lives on through the bakery’s
rich history, and through the efforts of the employees of the twenty-first
century. The history of Eilenberger’s Bakery is twice as sweet as
any East Texas history, given the sweet ingredients and success for
over 100 years. Both have proven to be key ingredients to the historic
bakery. Anyone who has not visited Eilenberger’s Bakery in historic
located at 512 North John Street, is encouraged to stop by for a treat,
in every sense of the word. Indulge in East
Texas history while treating yourself, family, or friends to the
baked goodness of Eilenberger’s Bakery.
For more information about Eilenberger’s Bakery log on to eilenbergerbakery.com.
To request a catalog call 1-800-788-2996.
© Dana Goolsby
24, 2010 Column
Reporter of The Grapeland Messenger