BEATRICE — Beatrice Bakery is celebrating an impressive milestone this year.
Grandma’s Fruit and Nut Cake, the bakery’s No. 1 seller, has been around for 100 years.
The recipe didn’t originate at Beatrice Bakery Company, but the company is keeping the tradition alive with thousands of fruitcakes produced each year, making their way to holiday celebrations around the country.
It was 1917 when the Lantz brothers immigrated to the United States and settled in St. Louis, where they opened a bakery. Their grandmother’s fruitcake recipe proved to be a hit with area residents, as well as a treasured family heirloom. When the brothers retired from the baking business, they needed to find a bakery that would carry on the tradition.
The Beatrice Bakery bought the recipe in the 1960s with a promise to never change it and, since 1963, the same ingredients have gone into the fruitcake, using the same cooking techniques and even some of the same equipment.
Keeping the recipe the same was not only a promise, but one of the reasons Grandma’s Fruit and Nut Cake has such staying power.
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Beatrice Bakery’s president, Greg Leech, said the company has seen an uptick in online sales after being featured on the QVC television network, and more people have been walking into the store in the basement of the factory.
“We're just known for our fruitcake,” Leech said. “That's the main reason they come in. Then they see our other products. The main reason they come in is to buy fruitcake.”
Over the course of the year, the bakery ships about 700,000 pounds of cakes. It uses about 35,000 pounds of walnuts, 50,000 pounds of pecans and 140,000 pounds of cherries and pineapple, Leech said.
The store's walk-in traffic has nearly tripled in the past few years, he said. Usually, traffic increases in the months leading up to Christmas, but this year, the bakery was packed during the eclipse in August.
Fruitcake has been Leech’s whole life, he said. Next month, he’ll have been with the Beatrice Bakery 39 years. He plans to retire in May to spend more time with his family.
“I have wonderful people that work for me and the public's been wonderful,” he said. “I'm going to miss that part. I'm not going to miss the rush from October through December.”