Friday, May 29, 2009

Deep in the Heart of Texas 2-Collin Street Bakery

Our side trip to Corsicana, Texas continues...

In addition to a real love for their home, my Grandparents also began to take great pride in their newly adopted hometown. They supported the local Theatre and the historic preservation of the town. Each time we'd visit they'd drive us to the see the local sights. Sometimes it would be a new factory being built in town or perhaps an old building downtown that was being revitalised. For ages we had to drive out to witness the construction of the new overpass. I admit, as a kid, some of these outings weren't particularly interesting, but I can now appreciate the great love they had developed for their little town. Over the years, they slowly introduced us to the town's hidden treasures.

One of those "hidden treasures" and perhaps the reason Corsicana, Texas rates on any one's radar is the Collin Street Bakery at 401 W. 7th Street. This family owned bakery founded in 1896 is probably most famous for its DeLuxe Fruitcake which it sells directly from its Corsicana headquarters to about 196 countries worldwide via mail order and more recently, online. Chances are if you've eaten a fruitcake at Christmas, it might just have been one from this little bakery in Texas. Who knew? According to Wikipedia, they make approximately 3 million pounds of fruitcake each year which translates into about 1.5 million individual cakes. Apparently the fruitcakes account for 98% of their sales. That's a lot of fruitcake folks!

On this particular afternoon in May, it wasn't fruitcake that I had in mind though. First and foremost, we were in need of a ladies room. Our Sonic cherry limeades were making themselves known to us. Emergencies of the bladder aside, I thought it would be delightful to stop in at the bakery that my Grandmother used to rave about and share the tradition with my children.

I have very few memories of actually going to Collin Street Bakery. I can recall maybe two occasions when I physically entered their shop, but I do remember my Grandmother having baked goods from there at her house with some regularity. If it was summertime, she'd have an Angel Food Cake for my brother's birthday. If it was Christmas, she'd have a fruitcake. During other times of the year we might have cookies from the bakery. She was very proud of the fact that the little bakery from her newly adopted hometown was world famous.

Not exactly a fruitcake fan, I thought the kids and I might grab some cookies for the road. We pulled into the Bakery parking lot and made our way inside. My attention was peaked by the sign out the front that promised gourmet sandwiches as well as coffee. I don't remember those items being on offer when I was a kid. It seemed as if some things had changed at Collin Street Bakery since I was last there.

As we walked through the glass doors into the bakery, I noticed a nicely arranged cafe style seating area on the right with a self serve coffee bar and to the left were baked goods of all shapes and sizes. The children were excited at the sight of all the different cookie varieties on display. I saw a basket with pre-made gourmet sandwiches which looked delicious. Hmm...this place looked like it had some taste bud pleasing potential.

We waited patiently while a mix of locals and tourists were served by the friendly bakery staff. Things seemed to move quite slowly inside the bakery, but we didn't mind, these cookies looked like they were worth the wait. Finally, it was our turn and we each selected a cookie--the little fellow chose one with M&Ms in it, my daughter chose a chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips and I chose a traditional chocolate chip cookie. As we made our way to the cash register I told the man at the counter I'd like to pay for our cookies. He said, "How many do you have there?" "Three," I replied. "Oh, don't worry about it. Consider them free samples," he said cheerfully. "Really?" I questioned. "Really," he said. So we promptly thanked him and made our way to their cafe seating area and sat down to enjoy our "free samples".

One bite into this cookie and I was in heaven. I'm a baker. I make lots of cookies and cakes at home all the time. I don't usually like to get cookies or cakes from a commercial bakery because they are never quite as good as what we make at home. These cookies were an exception. They were delicious. There was a distinct nuttiness to them. I think they had some ground pecan nuts mixed through them. It just so happens I love pecans. I loved these cookies. Wow. They were so much better than anything I remember eating as a kid. My little people loved them too.

As we sat enjoying our cookies, I took a moment to read the various news articles that lined the walls. Stories that had been written over the years telling the world about this little bakery in the heart of Texas; this little bakery in my Grandmother's adopted hometown. It was as if we were enjoying not just a cookie, but a piece of history; a tradition handed down over generations. It was lovely.

The loveliness didn't end there. We finally made our way into their ladies room and it was the nicest ladies room! There were granite vanities with lovely taps. A nice floral couch welcomed you as you entered. The little people took a moment to relax on it. My five year old said, "Gee Mom, this is like the nicest bathroom I've ever been in." Not too bad for a little pit stop three hours into our last road trip I thought quietly patting myself on the back all the while still thinking about the cookie I just consumed.

Once we'd finished in the ladies room, it was time to bid goodbye to the famous little bakery. We had one foot out the door when I said, "You know, we should really get some more of those cookies." Amazingly, there were no arguments from the little people. So we turned around and got back in line.

Ten minutes later we left the bakery with four dozen assorted cookies carefully packed away in a box to be enjoyed at a family wedding on the weekend. Taking the cookies to the wedding was my daughter's idea and I loved it. I felt like I was taking a little piece of history with us. It would be unexpected, but welcome and it made me feel as though my Grandparents would be amongst us in spirit. I felt them both smile at me as I carefully packed these cookies into our car and we drove slowly out of town, out of their town, and back onto the interstate.

Not sure when I'll be back in Corsicana again, but when I do return you better believe I'll be stopping at Collin Street Bakery.


barbara said...

Hi corsicana texas comes up on google streetview, perhaps you will be able to see your grandparents house.

Nathalie said...

What a great idea Barbara. I found the Bakery. Would have loved to taste some of those cookies. They must be good if they compare to your cookies :-)

Rita said...

I just love reading your stories Chica! After reading part 1, I couldn't wait for part 2. What a delightful bakery that is! makes me want to visit!

suzinoz said...

Barbara-that is an excellent idea. Thanks.

Nathalie-You'll be even more excited when you find out that the bakery was started by a German baker who migrated to Texas!

Rita-Thanks for reading, maybe your USA travels will take you there one day!

ibbabs97 said...

Funny how I told you to go to the Bakery on your way and you laughed at me. I am glad you little sister knows what she is talking about.

Becca said...

Your stories show the parts about living in small town Texas that I have grown to love!!! We don't have anything as wonderful as the bakery, but we have a couple places that I have become very fond of.