Hear the name “Swope” and you think of cars. Think “Heine,” and you smell coffee brewing. And “Heitzman” brings to mind delicious pastries and breads.
It’s been that way ever since Marguerite Schadt’s great-grandfather, Jacob Heitzman, opened his bakery in 1891. She and her husband, Dan, carry on his legacy in their store, Heitzman Traditional Bakery & Deli, 9426 Shelbyville Road.
“This is the one and only location. Other members of my family have their own stores with the Heitzman name, but we aren’t affiliated with them,” she said. “My great-grandfather’s bakery was in the Schnitzelburg neighborhood. Dan and I have had this store for 13 years. I started learning the bakery business when I was about six, so I’ve been around the block a few times.”
The bakery’s day begins at about 1 a.m. with the production of around 35 dozen bagels made the New York way – boiled in a gigantic cauldron, then briefly baked. Customers choose from about 13 varieties, with eight flavors of cream cheese. Some fresh bagels are driven to Dooley’s Bagels & Deli on Lime Kiln Lane; the Schadts recently bought the name and recipes, and it’s proving to be a “very successful” addition.
An early start also is needed to prepare up to 125 dozen doughnuts. Cutting and shaping the dough by hand, not machine, adds unique texture.
“Being the area’s only traditional bakery means that we still use the main recipes we started with 121 years ago,” Marguerite said. “The Heitzman name has always been associated with butter kuchen, the German-style coffee cake made with sweet dough, buttery custard filling, and white icing drizzled on top.”
The bakery opens at 6 a.m., serving those treats as well as omelettes, biscuits with sausage gravy, and other filling fare.
“Personally, I’m crazy about our Pecan Danish. You’re in heaven when you take that first bite of caramel and pecan,” she said. “People also stop by for our salt-rising bread, which we make about four times a week from a recipe that’s about 75 years old. It isn’t salty, and it makes the best toast. My great-grandfather made it religiously, all the time.”
That old-fashioned bread is popular at lunchtime, too, when it’s ordered for grilled cheese sandwiches, perhaps alongside homemade vegetable soup. Four soups, such as chicken-and-dumpling, are available daily. For heartier appetites, the meat lasagna, with made-from-scratch sauce, is a hit.
“It puts chills down your back, it’s so good. Have a salad with it and you’re ready to go,” Marguerite said. “Speaking of going, we have two drivers who deliver catering orders, as well as our box lunches and sandwich trays.”
To end lunches or dinners on a sweet note, Heitzman’s still makes its Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake from the 1891 recipe. Young adults, the Schadts report, tend to prefer a newer version that has cream cheese icing, as does the Carrot Cake. The youngest customers head for the fancifully iced cookies.
A party room in back accommodates about 50 people. Parties may include tours of the kitchen, where machines dating back a century or more are put through their paces (tours can be requested at other times as well). One oven rotates 100 pans at a time, in Ferris wheel fashion. This past weekend, such machines were needed to make as many as 700 King Cakes for Mardi Gras.
The bakery also has a dining room with seating for 125; it’s popular for rehearsal dinners and other special occasions, and is also open daily for dine-in customers.
“Running a bakery is hard work, but we love it,” Marguerite said. “There’s nothing like feeding the public. It’s fun – people are smiling when they come in, and smiling when they leave.”
Heitzman Traditional Bakery & Deli, 9426 Shelbyville Road, opens daily at 6 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday. For information, visit www.heitzman-bakery.com or phone 502.426.7736.