Holsum Bakery

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Description

In an area where just about everything is new, Holsum Bakery has been making bread in Phoenix for 125 years. Started by a German immigrant, the Arizona business is still owned by his family.

Transcript

Narrator:
Driving along Interstate 17 near McDowell Road in Phoenix , you might notice a scent usually associated with a kitchen. It's the aroma of freshly baked bread. Since 1946, the Eisele family has been baking "Holsum" Bread at this plant near the Freeway and elsewhere in the Valley of the Sun since 1881. But the story of the Holsum Bread Bakery began long before Phoenix was even a city. Edward Eisele was born in Bavaria , Germany , in 1856. At 16, he traveled to England . On his return trip to Germany , his ship was diverted to the United States , and for reasons still unclear, he and other passengers were forced to remain onboard for two years. Onboard the ship, Eisele learned to bake.

Edward Eisele:
When he finally was allowed to get off the boat, he was in some place called Philadelphia . And so at that point he was 18 years old and draft age in Germany , so he wrote his father a letter to let him know first of all that he was alive and secondly that he was going to give this country a try.

Narrator:
Eisele got hired on as a cook on a wagon train west, where he found work in Arizona building a canal.

Edward Eisele:
When the work was completed in 1881, I guess the work force just scattered, and he walked into Phoenix , and there was a gentleman who was also a German, with whom he could speak German, and introduced himself, got the job, and began buying the bakery and eventually owned the bakery outright in 1884.

Narrator:
The Phoenix Baking Company was established in 1881, the same year Phoenix was incorporated. At that time, the city had 2,500 residents. Today, Holsum employs 500 people. It was located at 7 West Washington Street , where Patriots Park is now. Eisele baked various products.

Edward Eisele:
Many kinds of breads and pastries; lots and lots of pastries and cookies. And you can see in the old pictures, in the glass cases, the cookies are just stacked up to the top.

Narrator:
At first, Eisele delivered his baked goods by foot, then bicycle, and then by wagon. In 1894, Eisele took on a partner, pharmacist Alfred Becker.

Edward Eisele:
Then Mr. Becker married, and my grandfather met my grandmother-to-be, and both families had one son. My dad was Lloyd Eisele, and Mr. Becker's son was Charlie Becker. And they went to school together, they were best friends, and became partners after their fathers passed away.

Narrator:
As Phoenix grew, so did the bakery. Eisele bought his first motorized delivery vehicles, Model T's, just about the time Arizona became a State. In World War I, Edward Eisele faced what many people who emigrate to this country face:
Anti-Immigrant sentiment.

Edward Eisele:
During World War I, the rumor was that Edward Eisele was conducting Anti-American meetings in support of Germany of all things, and so he wrote a letter to the editor, and there was a major editorial in the Arizona Republican, which was the forerunner of the Arizona Republic , refuting all of that. That was a bunch of nonsense.

Narrator:
In 1927, Edward Eisele died. His son, Lloyd, and his partner's son, Charles, took over the Phoenix Bakery. They decided to join a bakery cooperative and changed the name to the Holsum Bakery. In 1946, a new plant was built, and another opened in 1999 for the baking of buns and bread. Hugh Coker started working at Holsum in 1969 making doughnuts. He now runs the bakery. Coker remembers meeting Lloyd Eisele, the founder's son and father of the current owner, Ed.

Hugh Coker:
Some of the guys played a practical joke on me and said, "go over and tell that old guy over there to put a hairnet on." so I start with the company, walked over, and told Ed's dad, "Hey, you better put a hairnet on." he kind of looked at me kind of sheepishly and said, "Do you know who I am?" I said, "No, sir." and he says, "Well, I'm the guy that signs your check." so I look over there, and all these guys are laughing like crazy at me, and Ed's dad is about rolling on the floor as well; he enjoyed the joke as much as they did.

Narrator:
Coker says technology has added the biggest changes to Holsum Bakery in the past few decades.

Hugh Coker:
We used to dump bread out of the pans by hand and just did a lot of manual labor. We used to put pans on the conveyors by hand. Another one of my first jobs was to actually dump flour into this container that blew the flour into the mixer. They were 100-pound sacks, and so back then you had a kind of a strong back and a weak mind at the time.

Narrator:
Lloyd Eisele, the founder's son, passed Holsum to his son, Edward Eisele, who still operates the business. Baking bread has been an Eisele family tradition for 125 years. Yet the story of the Holsum Bakery is also the story of an immigrant who came to this land and made it better by helping to feed and build a community.