Son finds right mix to join family bakery Heinz: After owning and operating Firelight Sport and Adventure down the street in Westminster, Heinz Eric Luesse decided his real calling was a bakery his father owned.

October 27, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A Heinz Bakery sign hangs on Westminster's Main Street again, almost two years after Heinz Eric Luesse said he wasn't interested in continuing the family business -- then found it was his true calling.

Luesse had his own business and didn't want to take over the bakery when his father, German master pastry chef Heinz Hubert Luesse, decided to retire and sell it after 23 years.

The younger Luesse had a second chance when the new owners stumbled and his father took back the bakery. This time he was ready.

"I guess I did the business thing to prove to myself that this bakery is really my calling. I had to do other things first," said Luesse, 30. "For as long as I can remember, I've been changing my mind, back and forth.

"Now, it's time to get serious."

Heinz Bakery reopened Oct. 20 after sprucing up from its incarnation as Main Street Bake Shoppe, which closed in August.

"We wanted to make sure what we're doing is good," said Luesse, talking the other day as he applied chocolate frosting to fresh-from-the-oven doughnuts.

Customers lined up to greet them, he said, and neighboring merchants sent flowers.

"Everybody needs to know that they're back -- and better than ever," said R. Douglas Mathias of Greater Westminster Development Corp., a nonprofit economic development organization. "We're very pleased to welcome Heinz on their return."

Luesse and his fiance, 23-year-old Leanne Godwin, are running the business, but Luesse said his father is in before sunrise almost every morning to help with baking. They begin at 3 a.m., open at 6 a.m. and close at 3 p.m.

"My father's helping out, and without him the production would be nothing: He speaks with authority," Luesse said.

In Germany, his father would not be called a baker -- someone who bakes bread and rolls -- but a konditor, an artist in pastries, doughnuts and buns.

"We're going to have to wean ourselves of his support," Luesse said. "He says, 'I'm not coming back. I'm just helping a little bit,' but he's here for a good part of the production. He can't stay away. I think he missed the bakery a lot."

Heinz Hubert Luesse, 63, retired in December 1995 and sold the "Heinz Cake & Gift Haus" at West Main and John streets.

Beginning as an apprentice baker in Hamburg, Germany, in 1950, he earned the rank of master pastry chef in 1959 and then baked his way around the world on passenger liners. In Baltimore, he worked at the old Southern Hotel before taking a job at Western Maryland College.

After opening his Westminster bakery in 1972, he became known for his wedding cakes, cinnamon sticks, Christmas stollen and Black Forest cakes.

Heinz Eric Luesse earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Frostburg State University in Western Maryland and opened the Firelight Sport and Adventure store in September 1994, two doors away on West Main Street. He lives above it -- just a storefront away from the bakery.

The paint-ball part of the sports business exploded, and Luesse said he was able to sell Firelight easily when he decided to return to the bakery -- giving him the money to restart it.

Baking has been part of him for as long as he can remember, Luesse said, beginning when he was 5 years old.

"I grew up in here," he said during a morning lull, with a wide gesture that encompassed the original Baltimore-brand Poole oven along the wall and an 80-quart dough mixer on the floor.

"We're busiest between 6 and 9 a.m.," he explained, when people on their way to work start their day wanting doughnuts and buns.

"The best part of this week was to see all our old regulars. It's unusual to have so many come back. They've all already been back and said they're so pleased, so thrilled -- we've had so many compliments."

The bakery will move away from gourmet coffees and the like, he said.

"I want to get back to the basics: blue-collar men and women, bankers, schoolteachers, office workers," he said. "It's a good cross-section of America, a real community thing.

"It just feels right to be back," he added, smiling. "My darlin' helping me, and a lot of wonderful people coming back."

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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