|Bella, hoping for a cookie.|
There is something sacred about a bakery. That may seem like an absurd statement to you, but you would think differently if you had the smell of freshly baking bread about you. For the last 20 years I have had that privilege, as Hartman’s bakery has sanctified my neighborhood with it’s intoxicating aroma the way a church is filled with frankincense.
There is no better neighbor than a baker. There is no business you would rather have in your neighborhood than a bakery, except perhaps a café or bookstore (fortunately, we have both within blocks of our house). I have lived a block away from Hartman’s for decades now and I only have to step out of my house and breath deeply to be reminded that we are blessed by its presence. There is no bottled perfume at any cost that can be as alluring.
When I was young, we would go to visit my grandmother, who also had a bakery right around the corner from her house. It was one of my fonder memories of visiting her, being sent to buy a loaf of bread and given enough money to buy myself a cream puff, as well. Bread had always been nothing more than bread to me, until I had toast at my grandma’s. The bread was not the type I was used to, did not fit perfectly in the toaster, so that some parts were burnt while other parts still white. But there was a taste to it that could not be compared, especially when paired with boysenberry jam canned by an aunt or friend of the family. The most enduring memories are those that are related to a smell, and to this day I can still vividly recall the smell of fresh bread toasting in my Grandmother’s kitchen.
Moving into a house that had a bakery so close brought back vivid and pleasant memories of youth. More than that, it created many new moments, for my wife, myself and our son. I remember our son being an early riser, and we could buy a few extra moments of sleep by giving him a small amount of change to purchase something from Hartman’s. He always seemed to return with more than he had money for, and I half-suspect someone there had taken pity on the boy whose appetite was greater than the sum of his quarters.
My dog, too, was a fan of Hartman’s bakery. For years we would walk by it on an almost daily basis, and often I’d stop for a dog cookie or two (all right, I might have gotten a cream-filled Long John to go with it). I’d put her cookies in a white bag and hand it to her, and she would carry it home in her mouth as daintily as Jackie Onassis with a hand bag. One of my great pleasures was seeing drivers-by stare at my dog as we walked home. Dogs, too, would stare, sticking their heads out of the car windows as if in envy.
My dog would want to stop at the bakery every time we passed by it, and often times when it was closed I would have to drag her away. On one occasion, the owner was outside and noticed my dog’s intent. He told us to wait where we were, and in a moment returned from inside with a handful of cookies for my very grateful dog. And—I think it’s okay to say this now—on several occasions, he permitted my Bella into the bakery itself in order to have a look around.
I can tell you everybody’s favorites. My wife likes the peanut squares, my son likes the frosted cookies, and I like the cream-filled Long Johns. Or the cream-filled chocolate cupcakes. Or the seven-layer squares. My mom’s favorites were the apple fritters and the glazed croissants. I can’t recall how many times I stopped at the bakery to grab donuts on my way to my mom’s house. I always brought extra because my mom loved to share. It was a real treat for her neighbors on the south side of town.
I like to walk, and in the 20 years I lived in the neighborhood, I’ve easily walked past the bakery thousands of times. I have seen countless people go in to Hartman’s and come out with arms full. I have bought donuts to bring to work for my birthday, seen parents buying cakes for their children’s. I have seen the happy faces of those who walked up to the door, and have witnessed their secret suffering when they saw the Closed sign on the door and had to turn away empty-handed. I have seen the misfortune of a child who dropped his cookie on the sidewalk and the good fortune of my dog who was not at all shy about eating off the ground.
There are certain things that make a community unique, and for many years Hartman’s was one of them. Hartman’s is closing, and it makes me very sad, but I understand that nothing lasts for ever and I wish all the best to those who have given so much to the neighborhood for so long. You have touched many people in positive ways, and the smell of baking donuts will linger forever in my memory. Thank you.