© Jerry F. Couch
IN THE LATE 1920’S, the St. Paul Baking Company did a bustling business – with gross sales of about $35,000 during its best years. The bakery was located in the building that is occupied by Giovanni’s Pizza in 2020. This building was constructed by the Rainero Brothers in 1919 and was owned by James Rainero and his wife until it was sold to S. W. Johnson in the 1940’s.
The bakery’s president was M. C. Matthews. Matthews was also president of the St. Paul Coca-Cola Bottling Company as well as manager of Clinchfield Coal Corporation’s company stores for over 50 years.
M. C. Matthews at his Dante home
The eight employees of the St. Paul Baking Company produced bread, cakes, and pies which were delivered by truck to stores, hotels, boarding houses, and restaurants in St. Paul and the surrounding counties. In those days, pies were baked and delivered in metal pans which were returned for to the bakery in return for a deposit when they were empty. The era of single-use aluminum pans had not yet arrived.
With the Gaiety Theatre next door and the Blue Sulphur Hotel across the street, the St. Paul Baking Company was ideally situated for walk-in trade. You can imagine how appealing the smell of freshly-made doughnuts must have been for theater patrons as they were leaving the picture show. The doughnut fryer was located near one of the large front windows so passersby could see it. Children loved to gather at the window and watch doughnuts being made.
There were at least two other bakeries in St. Paul around this time period. One of them was operated by Guy and Caroline Molinary. There was also the Wizard Bakery which was operated by Guy Seaver.
Although the prosperity of the 1920’s had brought several new businesses to St. Paul, it did not last. The Great Depression wiped out the St. Paul Baking Company along with most of St. Paul’s larger grocery stores.
Nothing is so inevitable as change.