ROCKWOOD — For sale: iconic business in scenic Rockwood. Comes with all the delicious jelly-filled donuts your heart desires.
Saunders Bakery has been at the same Main Street location since 1914 when Pete Saunders, who worked in an Erin bakery, decided he wanted his own place and bought Grieve's bakery that had been there for 20 years.
Pete and his wife Nellie ran it, eventually turning it over to two of their children, Bernice and Herb. In 1994 it was sold to a pair of longtime employees, Paul Holman and Brenda Pettit.
Now it's on the open market.
"It's time," said Pettit on Wednesday, referring to the "For Sale" sign that went up last week. "We've been planning it for a while."
Early mornings and long days can take their toll eventually. The baker is in at 4 a.m. It's even earlier on weekends and Thanksgiving and Christmas? It's a midnight start with all hands on deck.
Pettit and her business partner Holman are ready to retire. They are hopeful a new owner comes along and keeps the bakery running.
"It's only been for sale for a week and there's already been lots of interest," she said.
Guelph's Dave Bacon grew up helping his mom and Bernice and grandmother Nellie Saunders in the bakery.
"I basically grew up in there because mom was in there all the time," says Bacon, 79. "I'd be cleaning the dough mixer ... carrying in the 100-pound bags of flour."
Tuesday and Thursdays was delivery day in the country for the bakery's horse and wagon (sleigh in winter). Wednesday and Friday were in-town delivery days.
Farmers paid once a month, everyone else paid cash and still do. No debit or credit. Although Bacon says there was some leeway given to locals during the Great Depression.
There was even a time the owners would tape 10 or 15 cents to a loaf and have the mailman deliver them on their rural routes, sticking the loaf of bread in people's mailbox.
A truck eventually replaced the horse and buggy, with "Saunders Bakery, Home of the Double High Loaf" on the side, including the number 41, which was the business's phone number for years.
With all due respect to the myriad of other sweets and cakes lining the shelves, that double high loaf, and donuts, have been the signature items for years at the bakery.
It wasn't uncommon to sell 200 loaves of bread on a busy day. Donuts usually sell out.
They all stem from old Scottish recipes that haven't altered over the years, still in a binder that is rarely opened because the recipes have been made for so long that they're committed to memory.
Originally things were baked in a coal and wood oven. That was replaced in the 60s by the oil oven that's still used today, as is the aging but oh-so-reliable donut making machine.
"They've been making those donuts from the time I can remember," Bacon said.
They haven't changed: fried yeast or cake dough deep fried, flipped half way through with a stick for even cooking, then injected with jam by a "gizmo" before being rolled in sugar. If there's any on the tray in the window, they've still got some left.
Celebrities have come through the door over the years. Pierre Berton used to pull up in the back of a Rolls Royce. Native sons Gordie Tapp of Hee-Haw fame and musician Peter Appleyard were regulars. John Diefenbaker stopped in once. So did Don Cherry.
Bacon says on at least three occasions a car ran into the store in bad weather or fog, before the traffic lights came 15 years ago.
The jelly donuts still sell out. The Saturday lineup is still out the door. People drive in from all around and generation after generation of the same family comes back to visit and eat some old favourites, be it the donuts, the cookies, the double high loaf of white bread or Chelsea buns.
"They're all the same. Everything is made with the same recipes and a lot of it with the same equipment that it has been for years," Bacon says.
Pettit said she and Holman have added a couple of products over the years, but essentially the bakery is a time warp: same things done the same way.
"You can't change things here," she said.
And why would you?
Pettit sees the bakery continuing.
"It's a constant thing and it's been in Rockwood for so long," she said. "I hope the right person comes along."
Asking price is $500,000.