Frontenac Bakery

(Frank) Good morning, I’m Frank Chaffin and this is Around Kansas. Today we’re gonna talk about fresh baked bread. Aaahh, there’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh baked bread. Let me tell you a little story. When I was a kid growing up in Topeka there was Butter Krust Bakery here and their home office and bakery was located just off of 10th and Kansas downtown. So, the smell of baking bread kind of permeated the whole downtown. Well, on Friday nights friends and I would go to the movies at the Jayhawk Theatre and then we would walk home, but we’d cut through the alley next to the building and the bakery where they were baking and there was a little screen door there that you could kind of peek in and you could see the cooling racks. Well, if you tapped on the door and were really nice they might give you a loaf of nice, warm bread and then off we went. Well, unfortunately Butter Krust Bread is no more and oh also, the building had this big sign on top that said “Butter Krust is good bread.” It was lighted up, you could see it all over Topeka at night. Anyway, the Butter Krust Bakery is gone but the bakery that we’re gonna talk about is still there after 100 years and it’s in Frontenac. Now Frontenac is down in the extreme southeast corner of Kansas where Joplin and Pittsburg and Baxter Springs and Frontenac are. OK. Well, back in 1900 an Italian immigrant named George Vaka came there to work in the coal fields, in the coal mines. And anyway a knee injury ended that so he happened to bring with him an old family recipe for hard crust Italian bread. So, he built a huge brick oven and began baking bread. And it must have been good because they still bake it today. OK, so George started baking the bread and it has like I say, survived since 1904, that’s when the oven was built. Well, the bakery has changed hands a few times, George had it til 1944 when he retired. But each time it has changed hands the contract specifically says that the same family recipe will be used. Well, of course today the menu has expanded some, they make bread sticks and dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls. And they also make bread crumbs that they sell to the six chicken dinner restaurants in the area that they can use in the batter for their fried chicken. That’s another story we’ll talk about sometime, the chicken dinner restaurants down there. So, anyway the baking there starts during the day about two o’clock in the afternoon when they mix all of the bread dough and then it rises and then the baking goes on through the night because the next day the bread is packaged, prepared, and delivered by none other than the owner. And the bread is available in Springfield, Missouri, and markets there, in Wichita and markets there. And of course, in markets all around the area. So, how much bread can they bake? Well, this oven is big enough that they can bake 256 loaves all at time, 256 loaves of bread. Can you imagine how that must smell around the Pittsburg area and Frontenac? Aaahhh it would be good. So again, after 100 years this bakery still exists. They still use the very same brick oven that George built back in 1904. So, the next time you’re down in southeast Kansas and in Frontenac why be sure to stop in the bakery. And also be sure to pick one of the chicken dinner restaurants and have their fried chicken cause it is fantastic. So, again, that’s our story about bread. And by the way, the Frontenac Bakery is one of the eight wonders of Kansas commerce. Wow. Commerce is great in Kansas and it’s wonderful to live here. And it’s also a great place to come and visit. So, for now this is Frank Chaffin and I’ll see you on the radio. I kind of stole that line we know, on, Saturday mornings from 11 to 2. Tune if for the oldies. See you Around Kansas.