Conroy’s Bakery Shoppe always has been a family affair.
The 60-year-old bakery has attracted second, third and fourth-generation customers. A grandparents' wedding cake, the parents' anniversary cake and now the son’s graduation cake.
But on Thursday, the bakery will sell its last bite-size orange roll, its last cinnamon knot and its last face-size glazed doughnut.
Jim and Grace Conroy raised their five children — all adopted — while rolling dough, making doughnuts, baking cookies and providing a family atmosphere inside their bakery at 4725 Prescott Ave.
When the five Conroy children were young, they took naps on the 100-pound sacks of sugar and helped their dad twist pieces of dough into knots.
“We just all grew up there. We came to work with dad early and stayed with mom until late,” said daughter Ret Pennell.
Pennell, who moved from California 15 months ago to take care of her parents, both 96, said that it was “just time” to close the doors of their College View location.
The Conroy's store at 1600 Normandy Court, operated by another sibling, Tim, will remain open.
But the College View neighborhood icon won’t be forgotten any time soon by its loyal customers.
“Our customers always say, ‘We’ve been coming here for 25 years,’ and I think we’re like their family,” Pennell said. “Mom and Dad have made a lot of friends who would come in and they’d become our family.”
As news spread of the bakery's impending closing, customers couldn't hide their sadness.
“A lot of people have been coming up to me saying, ‘Oh we’re going to miss you, what are we going to do?’” Pennell, the oldest child, said.
Conroy's neighbors in the College View area already were mourning the bakery's closing.
Optical Gallery employee Abby Wells has been stopping in Conroy’s for more than 10 years. Of all the treats Conroy’s serves, the doughnuts are her favorite.
“Sometimes the smell just catches you as you get out of your car and brings you in,” she said.
Wells’ coworker Holly Egger has been a loyal Conroy’s customer for 22 years. Egger said she would find any and every excuse to walk across the street to Conroy’s and pick up a sweet treat.
“Sometimes we’d get here on Saturday mornings, look at each other and say, ‘Doughnut day?’” Egger said.
Wells added: “Whether it was a good day or a bad day, it was always — should we go get doughnuts?”
Those neighboring businesses were part of the bakery’s success throughout the years, Pennell said. Even if people didn’t work nearby, they could escape from life’s craziness by diverting to Conroy’s.
“I think this is always a place of serenity,” she said. “Knowing you can come in here and have a cup of coffee and relax. People always say, ‘Just think of floating away on a cloud,' and Conroy’s Bakery is that cloud.”
A family atmosphere enticed regulars to come back repeatedly, just to hang out. Every morning a group of eight to 10 would just hang out, drink coffee and enjoy a piece of pastry.
“I call them the Conroy Wild Bunch,” Pennell said.
Pennell is thankful her family was able to foster genuine friendships among customers, employees and the bakery's neighbors.
A baker's day begins before the sun rises, and it was no different for the Conroy family. Grace, an especially devout Catholic, always found time to go to mass and pray every day.
She would also often bring free baked goods to the nuns and priests of St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Saturday mornings. The Conroys’ generosity didn’t stop at church, though. They frequently gave to numerous charities. Jim and Grace also provided jobs, even if there really weren't any, just to help people out.
“They’d let them come clean at night so they could get some pocket money,” Egger said. “They were just very generous people.”
Or a hungry person would come into the shop, penniless, and Jim and Grace would make sure the person left with a full stomach.
“Growing up, we’d never know who would be at the dinner table,” Pennell said. “They were always bringing somebody home, saying ‘Come have a meal with us.' They did a lot for people. They gave a lot.”
Pennell said she hopes her family's heart and compassion will leave a permanent mark on the Lincoln community.
To Conroy's loyal customers, she expresses her gratitude: “Thank you for supporting my parents all these years. And for the friendships and for the laughter and love they’ve given my parents.”