Hutzler's glory days were full of great tastes

March 07, 1995|By JACQUES KELLY

Did you ever have a craving for a slice of the Wellesley fudge cake sold from the bake shop of Hutzler's department store?

Probably the only mortals who don't are those who never tasted this long-gone version of bakery bliss.

The cake is gone, as is the Hutzler Brothers Company, that local institution that seemed as if it would be immortal. Founded in 1858, it made it through to 1990 when the final going-out-of-business sale was held.

The Howard and Saratoga streets stores are now state offices. The Towson branch sits empty. The Hecht Company occupies the White Marsh site. Value City operates in the Westview location.

And where are the former employees? I can think of the men and women I knew behind the counters -- Mrs. Taylor, Miss Rush, Miss Mazo and Mr. Cheslock. Every so often one turns up and you get to talking of the glory days at the Big Store.

One who called recently was Pat Krasowski, a graduate of Seton High School who became the bridal wear buyer with an office on the fourth floor of the Howard Street Hutzler's. Today she is a Woodward and Lothrop manager at White Marsh, but wants to re-establish touch with people who were once part of the Hutzler family.

"When a business dies, there are no records of who worked there and where they live," she said. "We need a reunion."

We started talking about how Baltimoreans held a special reverence for the store and often waited in line to patronize its tea rooms, luncheonettes and soda fountains. She recalled sitting at the downtown Trailways bus depot and waiting for a last minute shipment of gowns on a Thursday night for a Saturday wedding.

"We worked until we got the order finished," Mrs. Krasowski recalled.

There were little pleasant eccentricities. At Hutzler's, potato chips were Saratoga chips. And many a sandwich was served on toasted cheese bread. When terrapin stew was impossible to get elsewhere, it was on the menu of the sixth-floor tea room. Many an entree was served with carrot-gelatin mold, as if the chef thought you needed to eat something healthy that day.

The food tasted as if somebody's grandmother was in the kitchen, which was not given to gimmicks. The cooking was plain, but served with enough flourish and style to make it distinctive. The ingredients were also excellent.

What was it about Hutzler's chocolate sauce, or its chicken chow mein, vegetable soup, Wellesley fudge cake or Russian dressing? And wasn't the silverware monogrammed with the Hutzler initials?

The Howard Street store had four separate eating places -- and on a Saturday afternoon in the 1960s each could have a waiting line.

The Colonial Room, which customers regularly called the tea room, was a formal eating place with mahogany tables and chairs, tablecloths and napkins.

Some of the chairs are still in use at Fells Point's Admiral Fell Inn.

Adjacent to the Colonial was the Quixie, a set-price, lunch-only room with individual tables and chairs.

It also had a pink, rolling dessert cart.

Until it closed in 1972, all desserts were the same price, about 30 cents.

The walls of the basement luncheonette always resounded with the din of clattering crockery and silver. The food was the most popularly priced and customers sat on wooden, orange-toned chairs -- either at counters or individual tables.

"You could hear the B&O Railroad trains rumble through the Howard Street tunnel," Mrs. Krasowski said.

On Saratoga Street, Hutzler's had a Fountain Shop that was pretty much what its name implied -- chocolate sodas, hamburgers and lighter fare.

When it was remodeled in the 1950s, the restaurant had a feature wherein the waitresses wrote the orders with a special pen that was incorporated into an overhead projector.

It flashed the order to the kitchen.

This wasn't too popular and individual checks returned.

The suburban stores had their large restaurants as well.

Towson had its Valley View Room with pastel murals and fox hunting, and Hampton House.

Westview had its Westview Gardens.

Eastpoint, the Cloverleaf Room, a name that recognized the Baltimore Beltway.

Mrs. Krasowski is looking for other Hutzler employees for a general reunion slated for Aug. 26. She needs help. Give her a call at 256-0571.

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