Taylor’s Bakery: The Secret to Staying in Business for 100 Years (and Going)
As you pull into Taylor’s Bakery, a fourth generation family-owned and operated bakery, located at 62nd and Allisonville Road in Indianapolis, it’s evident the building has stayed true to what it was when it was first built in 1968.
It’s not flashy, it’s just simple. There’s a great hometown feel as you are welcomed by the unchanged sign that reads “Taylor’s Bakery ‘Taylor Made For You’.”
As you walk in, some upgrades have been made but its clear their primary focus is, and always has been, their products. They have a plethora of baked goods from doughnuts and cakes to bread and cookies. Every item in their merchandisers and on their shelves is enticing; from the elegantly handcrafted cakes to freshly made and ever-so-popular doughnut holes, it’s hard to refrain from getting one of everything. This success didn’t come overnight though, it’s been a century in the making.
The primary location for Taylor’s Bakery was built in 1968, but the family business dates just a little after the turn of the 20th century.
Founded in 1913 by Dennis O. Taylor, it all began as a small food business. Dennis then purchased a grocery store near 38th Street and Illinois which was very successful.
Dennis and his wife, Amy, kept the grocery store for many years with their daughter, Virginia, and son-in-law, James Allen. Virginia and James’ son, John, became involved as well. Virginia primarily managed the Epicurean food section while John and James focused on the bakery. The family opened the 62nd and Allisonville location in 1968, which became the primary location when the grocery store was closed in 1973. It is carried on today by John and his two sons, Drew and Matt. The family also has a second bakery in Fishers, Ind., that opened in 2003.
Maintaining the Business
With any successful and prestigious family business, it’s always the hope that it will be carried on from generation to generation. Matt said he wasn’t ever pressured, but he knew it was always his plan to help continue it on.
He came back to the bakery just after college and Drew just a few years later. John is semi-retired but still comes in almost every day. Matt handles many things that involve their computers or fixing anything that breaks, while Drew handles the purchasing.
“I couldn’t imagine working for someone else and seeing the family business go down or sold,” Matt said. “I had a vision from early on that this is what I would do.”
Keeping the bakery open isn’t a normal nine to five job and requires many parts and pieces working together to keep everything running as smoothly as possible. Much of the work begins while people are just going to bed, or are well into a deep sleep. Deliveries are made while it’s still dark and the retail shift arrives just as most people are starting their day.
Keeping Open 100 Years and Going
The fact that Taylor’s Bakery has been open for 100 years and continues to be successful speaks volumes about them. Just as there have been four generations maintaining the business, there have also been four generations of customers.
“Consistency,” Matt said when recalling why he thinks the business has been so successful. “Just offering the same products. There have been four generations of owners and there are a lot of the same cakes, breads, danish and doughnuts. It’s the same as 30 to 40 years ago.”
Perhaps the consistency of the product is the secret to keeping a business open for so long. Taylor’s Bakery has always stayed true to who they are and what they serve. They don’t jump on every fad or trend just because it’s what people are buying at that moment.
Of course over time there is change and upgrades need to be made. They’ve continued to make the appropriate upgrades while staying true to their brand–which includes their recipes.
“Some of them go back (many years), like the white cake is 60 to 70 years old,” Matt said. “There are other products when the supplies change, you change them. For example pie dough used to be made with lard and as everyone steered away from lard, you started using shortening.”
Matt thinks they would probably still be using the same ingredients as in years passed if the actual ingredients had not changed. They make changes and adjustments as they need to and stay as close to the original recipe as possible.
The scale of the products has remained unchanged as well. Even though the cost of the materials to make their baked goods has increased, all the products have remained the same size.
And all the while the recipes are consistent, Taylor’s Bakery does pride them for being able to customize orders, which customers appreciate.
For one more excellent example of customer service, Taylor’s Bakery keeps their shelves stocked in their merchandisers, even to the hour before close. Customers can always come in and choose from a large fresh selection without feeling as though they’re getting a stale item.
For the evenings the bakery closes and there is product still leftover, those items don’t just go in the trash. They send them to food rescue, Second Helpings. They began to work with Second Helpings when they knew they weren’t getting anywhere by just throwing perfectly fine product away.
Food rescues are common around the country, and foodservices all over can most likely find one in their local area. What stood out to Taylor’s about Second Helpings was the fact they could come consistently.
“They’ll come in every day and it’s worked really well for us,” Matt said. “It saves us from putting it in the trash. When you tour their facility (Second Helpings), see what they do and how many people they serve, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Those who have held any kind of job in the foodservice industry know there is no typical day, and there are many lessons to be learned. There are many aspects that are both in and out of one’s control.
“I’ve gone through a phase where I had an uninsured and unlicensed person hit me at a four way stop,” Matt recalled. “I had two weddings cakes in the back and they both went down. It basically totaled the truck. I’ve delivered hundreds of wedding cakes before that and that was the perfect example of taking your eye off someone for one second. Don’t assume they’re going to stop, and we deliver three to four hours ahead of time for that exact reason.”
Matt remembered another delivery learning experience. He had arrived to deliver a cake at a new place he had never been before and was his last cake of the day. He took the top tiers in to what he described was a beautiful building. He set them down and as he looked around the exquisitely decorated room, he saw it was all complete, even down to the the skirted tables and toasting glasses ready in place.
“You just add the bride, groom, guests and you’re ready,” he said.
As he brought the bottom two tiers in and began to set-up the cake, he said they always center the cakes on the table. This table in particular was a folding table and unfortunately not to his knowledge, someone had forgotten to lock the legs. It didn’t take long before the table went down, taking the cake, toasting glasses and everything on it with it. As expected, Matt has a phobia of tables now and always checks to make sure they’re secure. In cases like that, there is no salvaging the cake. Just pick up the phone and start it all over again. It’s those learning experiences that teach people for the future, and when there is already so much history to a business, those lessons are just stepping stones to future success as opposed to being road blocks.
Taylor’s Bakery is a great example for those trying to keep up their bakery, or any foodservice for that matter. There are so many trends and designs that are popular today, but perhaps that isn’t everything.
There’s something to the saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Consistency and excellent customer service for decades goes a long way and separates a business out from all others. The longer something is consistent, the more customers know they can trust the brand.
For Taylor’s, customers know exactly what to expect–and love it.