We refer, of course, to The Village Bake Shop, which recently celebrated a special birthday. Does anyone wonder where celebrants found the cake?
It is not every day we can savor the opportunity to recognize an endearing part of our Cleveland hometown’s living history. We can today because the cure for Bradley County’s sweet tooth has turned “The Big 5-0.”
The occasion occurred Friday, Aug. 12 — and many, many pastry-loving patrons were there to help celebrate. Some have been customers for the entire 50-year stretch. Others like to tell an interesting anecdote — that Village Bake Shop staff baked their birthday cakes when they were kids, and then their wedding cakes years later.
Founded in 1961 by Arthur and Jo Gilbert, The Village Bake Shop is far more than a mere bakery.
It is, and has been for five decades, part of our lives; at least for those who have been around long enough to remember the store’s opening day. And many have. And most at one time or other have walked into the aromatic shop to satisfy a special craving. Others have served as repeat customers. Over and over and over.
The Village Bake Shop is located behind the same storefront that opened its front door 50 years ago — in the old Village Shopping Center. Some just called it the Village Mall because it was Cleveland’s first. Now, the structure is known as the Village Green Town Center, thanks to a rescue effort by Cleveland businessman Allan Jones, who bought the dying structure in 1998.
Ironically, Jones has a soft spot — or sweet spot — for The Village Bake Shop because that’s where his mother used to buy all the family’s birthday cakes. It is why he still cherishes the bakery as a viable — and community popular — part of The Village Green.
The bakery is known for quality and taste, but some might be surprised to learn one of its most popular delights is its delicious Thumbprint cookies, baked every day. They are a huge seller, even when pitted against such competition as cakes ... doughnuts .... fruit pastries ... doughnuts ... pies ... doughnuts ... and cinnamon buns.
And, well ... doughnuts!
When a longtime Cleveland banker named Bobby Taylor from Merchants Bank arranged a loan that financed the bakery’s opening half a century ago, he must have had a weakness for the miracle of fresh-baked goodies. Because it was a sweet business deal that lightened the dispositions — but not the waistlines — of thousands of Bradley Countians. The late Mr. Taylor, who would go on to found the Bank of Cleveland, gave his hometown a warm gift when he signed the paperwork that made the Gilbert dream a reality.
Another significance to The Village Bake Shop’s success and longevity is that this is the story of a small business that has thrived. Perhaps it is testament to the fact that in spite of economic downturn, financial gloom and global uncertainty, people still want their doughnuts.
We understand why.
And we recognize why so many have chosen this bakery.
Fifty years is a long time.
Yet the Gilberts are still in the dough.
And there we hope they will stay.
Congratulations to The Village Bake Shop and to the Gilbert family descendants we hope will forever keep its sweet dreams alive.