Most days this is the way a conversation gets started at our house. Hubs leads with, “Hey, what you doin today?”
Me: “Well, I’d like to go to Meijer either today or tomorrow for a few minutes and buy some sweet corn. It’s on sale this week. Can you help me with freezer corn?”
Hubs: “Sure, how much are you planning on getting? You always buy too much.”
Me: “I looked in my canning journal and we did 5 dozen ears last year. But we still have 6 bags left, so I thought 3 dozen ears plus 4 for supper might be enough this year.”
Hubs: “Sounds about right. Let me know when you wanna go. I’ll ride along so you don’t have to lift that heavy wooden box.”
Me: “Thanks, did you have anything planned?”
Hubs: “Well, I should drive down and check Shannon’s office buildings to see if I need to mow again with all the rain we’ve had this week.”
Me: “You could swing by Hinkley’s and get me some donut holes while you’re in the area. You haven’t stopped there in months.”
I really don’t know why I planted that seed. He’s the bakery nut, not me. Never saw a donut he didn’t like. I much prefer homemade goodies, German Chocolate cake, cupcakes, fruit or cream pies, bars (not the drinking establishments) but the gooey goodness of a pan of cherry, rhubarb, raisin spice, or brownies.
Yet there’s something special about Hinkley’s. It’s not the first bakery I’ve craved/lusted after during my life. First there was Van Olst’s Bakery in Rock Valley, which really had an unfair advantage over this wayward youth. The Bakery was literally one block from my house. The smell of fresh, sweet Cinnamon Rolls, Almond Patties, Bismarck’s, Date Bars, Glazed Donuts, Long John’s, and homemade sliced/unsliced Bread wafted to and through our house late every night but Saturday. No kid is born with that kind of willpower. I stopped there almost every Friday night after football or basketball games. Standing around talking, watching Papa Van Olst and his adult/almost grown kids knead, shape, slice, bake, frost and fill trays for their next morning’s opening. Always bought a treat before I’d head home. Fond memories of a very special family’s dedication to their thriving small business.
The next time I became fixated on a bakery was when we lived in Davenport during the 80’s. (Although Hubs and all 3 kids had a real ‘thing’ for Super America’s donuts when we lived in Spencer. It was a GAS STATION. How can they even be considered seriously as a bakery? The family was simply blindsided by the over use of sprinkles). A hole in the wall a few blocks from our house called Mount Ida Bakery. Our family’s favorite until Shannon discovered the sweet treat she was devouring was sporting half of a wasp. Talk about freaking out. Yikes. None of us wanted to imagine where the other half of the wasp was exactly. That ended our frequent trips/fond addiction to Mount Ida.
We frequented a neat old bakery in Muskegon called Ryke’s. Their cakes were legendary. We brought a full size sheet cake (frosted with different shades and sized purple polka dots) for Ari’s high school graduation party. We lived in North Muskegon for over 20 years and I dare say Ryke’s changed ownership at least 3 times. Just felt like it wasn’t the same anymore the last few years we lived there.
And then there’s Hinkley’s Bakery in Jackson, Michigan. A grand old unique institution. Opened in 1720 and soon became a hit for the newfound 13 colonies. Sure the distance was prohibitive. Still, every week at least one, sometimes several tired horse riders (with a sweet tooth) from one of the quaint 13 would appear out of nowhere, sporting homespun duds, requesting an extra large box of glazed donut holes for church services. They always bought the biggest quantity because they had church services 3 times on Sunday. Thanks to Hinkley’s, church membership almost doubled whenever donut holes were on the menu. Everyone knew when holes were gonna be served because the Pony Express dude was gone for a week in advance to get them to the church on time. (They were too frugal to use Uber or Grub Hub).
Jackson hadn’t really become a town yet-they were still waiting for that first Republican to show up. But there sat Hinkley’s, in the middle of nowhere (but someday would be lower mid-Michigan-pretty much surrounded by The Great Lakes/though not yet named). Wasting delicious aromas on the local wildlife (stinky Wolverines) 4 nights a week. They’re closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday. Hey, when you’ve established the first ever monopoly, you call the shots (shots-not like bullets or booze but hours of operation). Even if the customers are hundreds of miles away. (Their slogan- If you bake, fry or frost it, they will come).
To this day the Hinkley tradition continues. They remain in the original building, which at the time was ultra modern. A lone business, without a town just yet. It would be another 100 years before the city of Jackson was born, yet the owners of Hinkley’s somehow knew they were in for a huge local contract before the city would prove to be a thriving community.
When the city of Jackson was still in its infancy, the state of Michigan decided to build and open the first state prison in, ta-da Jackson (named after Andrew). The prison would push hard, trying to force Hinkley’s into opening 7 days a week, but you know how big monopolies operate. “Dey ain’t gonna make us bring dem baked goodies every day. No siree. We need the sabbet to honor God and duh first two days of the veek to recharge our own selfs. We ben vaitin a hunert years, and nobody gonna tell us how to run dis bizness.”
Now when you buy baked goods (the lines can be very long outside the door-they thrive on this kind of shit when it happens) the staff at Hinkley’s use neat boxes so your chocolate crescents don’t have to touch your Bismarcks. The box clearly states Hinkley’s has been open since 1913. That’s a downright fib. Honest, they have been in business since 1720, but got grandfathered in 1913 to save on city taxes. You would have thought since the town was actually built around them, they would have least named the street they were on Hinkley Road, but all of a sudden they grew humble and decided to call their street Blackstone.
The recipes from Hinkley’s remain highly guarded secrets. The bakery has never changed hands, but has been handed down/bought to family members for nearly 300 years now. The head baker Brian is 4th generation (their family’s longevity is as legendary as their donut holes). Must be something they eat or their short work week. Whatever the reason, we are most grateful (and fatter) for our famous little bakery. Hinkley’s. Frost on…