RACINE — Donald Hutchinson and Debbie Hutchinson Jerdee have a lot of memories — 50 years’ worth — at Larsen’s Bakery, 3311 Washington Ave.
Debbie was 15 years old and Don was 5 when their father, Ernie Hutchinson, who had worked there as an assistant for a year, bought the business from Einer Larsen in 1969.
“Hard to believe 50 years goes by that fast,” said Don.
On Friday and Saturday, the bakery is celebrating its 50-year anniversary by giving away coffee and cake slices. Guests can also spin a wheel for a chance to win kringle, donuts, sheet cake and more.
For better or for worse, the Hutchinsons have a lot of memories in that bakery.
Fifteen-year-old Debbie was recruited to help out after getting out at Case High School pretty soon after her father bought the business. She bribed bus drivers with donuts to drop her off outside the bakery doors in West Racine.
Don rode his bike about 3 miles one-way from their house at Indiana Street and Allen Street to the bakery, though he wasn’t always a help. He remembered sneaking off with the cinnamon hearts they kept in a jar in the back for Valentine’s Day doughnuts and that one time he threw a piece of dough up so high it stuck to the ceiling.
The night before Debbie’s wedding in 1974, a big snowstorm hit and knocked the power out right when Ernie had her wedding cake in the oven. At 2 a.m., Ernie got a call saying the power was back on, so he went back in, started all over and had the cake baked and decorated in time.
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It hasn’t all been cake and kringle. The year 2004 was a tough one, when the family lost the middle child, Daniel Hutchinson, in February when he was hit by an SUV while riding his bike. Danny had been a master baker, kringle maker and decorator. That December, Ernie Hutchinson died after battling leukemia.
Friends and fried donuts
The family has met an assortment of characters over the years. TV personality Al Roker stopped by and learned how to make kringle in 2004 for a Food Network show “Roker on the Road.”
Debbie remembered one customer who’d drive in from Milwaukee after she’d dropped off her kids at school to pick up a few kringle. Debbie learned she’d take the kringle home, cut them up into servings, label them “liver,” put them in the freezer and then put them in her kids’ lunches for school.
They’ve also seen some changes over the years. They’ve been pleasantly surprised with how popular their vegan baked goods are and recently invested in new signs outside the front and back doors.
So after decades of donuts, cakes and kringle, have Debbie and Don had enough of baked goods?
“Never got tired of it,” said Debbie. “The worst is the almond horns. When they come out of the oven, I just melt.”
Don said he still loves pecan kringle, fresh donuts out of the fryer and even a simple slice of bread with butter, right out of the oven.