BANGOR, Maine — Bakers are handing out cake and sugar cookies frosted with the number 65 this week in celebration of the 65th anniversary of Frank’s Bake Shop at 199 State St. in Bangor. The week also marks the official retirement of Frank Soucy Jr., 84, co-founder of the family-owned bakery.
“It’s a huge thing because this little family business has sustained so much going along the way,” Frank’s niece and general manager Theresa Soucy, 61, said Friday.
Frank Soucy and his two sons, Joe and Frank Jr., started up the bakeshop in 1945 selling cookies, bread and cake on Harlow Street. Two years later, they moved to the rundown former A&P building on State Street, where they’ve remained.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” said Frank Jr., who was 19 when the business started. “My father was the brains of the baking business. He taught us. He taught me how to decorate cakes, so I did that for over 30 years. And it just went on from one year to the next.”
In the ’90s, Frank Jr. sold his share of the business to Joe and continued to work as a baker. Now the bakery, which has 38 employees, is owned by Joe’s five children: Theresa Soucy, Bernadette Gaspar, Joseph Soucy, Richard Soucy and Fleurette Dow.
From listening to their customers and attending conventions, the Soucys decided to expand their menu and shop to include sandwiches, catering and homemade meals on the go. Each day of the week has a fixed special meal: Monday meatloaf, Tuesday quiche, Wednesday turkey pie, Thursday lasagna and Friday baked beans.
“One of the big things is having the ability to shift our business according to our customers’ needs and what the times are bringing,” said Theresa Soucy, commenting on the arrival of supermarket and superstore bakeries. “We just need to shift and stay true to what we are, our quality of being a scratch bakery.”
Being a “scratch bakery” means that they bake everything with fresh products, without mixes and additives. Bernadette Gaspar, “Queen of Tarts,” bakes a smorgasbord of goods that are gluten-free, sugar-free and lactose-free.
“We use the freshest ingredients we can get our hands on,” said bakery supervisor Jane Heath. A sandwich is made of real turkey and mayonnaise between bread they bake without preservatives.
The bakery has its regular customers who visit every morning or after work. One day, a customer came to Frank Jr. with a picture of a wedding cake he made for them 30 years before and asked him to make a similar one for their child.
“It’s the personal thing you have with your customers,” Frank Jr. said. “You always treat your customers the way you like to be treated. That’s what my dad said from the start. Never place any product out to sell if you wouldn’t want to buy it yourself. Quality comes first.”
“It’s always a challenge and we’ve had to be creative,” Theresa said. “But our family truly was brought up that way — to service the community. I look at it really as a labor of love.”
To carry on the family business, the owners — who are all in their 60s — are now looking to their grandchildren and the talented managers and bakers who keep the bakery running every day.
The 65th anniversary of business seems a fitting time for Frank Jr. to say goodbye to the kitchen, but it was also a necessity. In the past year, Frank Jr.’s wife passed away and he has run into some health issues. He no longer has the stamina to bake for hours on end, but his children will carry his legacy on, catering to the changing community.
“Oh, I’ll go in if they need help,” Frank Jr. said. “If there’s a certain recipe they want to try, I’ll go in and show them how it should be done.”
The bakery is selling doughnuts at the reduced price of 65 cents and plans to do small things throughout the year in appreciation of their customers. They will be holding an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 13 to celebrate Frank Jr.’s retirement and the lengthy success of the family-owned business. For information, call Frank’s Bake Shop at 947-4594.