It's hard to believe the legendary nut sticks at Bauhof's Bakery are close to 350 years old -- and counting.
But that's the age of many Bauhof recipes that have been delighting generations of sugar addicts dating to the family's German roots in the 1600s.
The small bakery in the heart of Woodlawn Village -- which today holds a celebration in honor of its 50th anniversary -- is the kind of old-fashioned place you'd expect to greet your neighbor any weekday afternoon. Less than $1 will still buy a cup of coffee and a doughnut here, and there's always some neighborhood gossip.
And to think it nearly closed in July.
Struggling after a brain aneurysm, owner Robert Bauhof placed a sign on the front door that said, "We will close on July 27 until further notice."
Upon seeing it, customer Jim Lerch ditched his quest for a dozen chocolate buns in favor of a bid to purchase the whole shop.
"As a child, I used to come to Bauhof's as part of a family ritual -- we stopped here every Sunday after church," Lerch said. "I used to walk past the horseshoe out front on the sidewalk -- I always wanted to take that horseshoe home as a child, and now I own it."
It took one week for Lerch and his wife, Holly, to buy the bakery, fulfilling a dream of owning such a business after years in the seasonal produce business selling corn, peaches, tomatoes and watermelons.
Today, the Lerches have updated Bauhof's pastry lines to include sugar-free pastries and upscale croissants, cannoli, a "peanut butter bomb," muffins and New York-style cheesecake. Old favorites -- nut sticks, peach cake, honey-dipped doughnuts and coconut rings -- remain staples.
"I'm having a blast," Jim Lerch says. "My biggest thing is to overcome coming in here as a customer. I've had a hard time understanding the bakery is mine."
In honor of the bakery's golden anniversary, Lerch is unveiling an M&M candy-laced cookie, along with oatmeal and peanut butter cookies. He attributes Bauhofs' success to the quality of its ingredients.
"We don't skimp -- we give people top-of-the-line products," he says.
Tradition is still the strongest selling point, says Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat who represents Baltimore County's 2nd District.
"If it had closed, it would have been another symbol of David's small business vs. Goliath's megastore," he said. "The fact that a community can hold on to a tradition is a positive statement for that neighborhood."
Woodlawn Village, on Gwynn Oak Avenue about two miles from the mammoth Social Security Administration headquarters, has struggled to maintain its small-town feel amid rising crime and the closing of certain family businesses that have operated there for years.
The town barber and beauty shops, the cleaners and Bauhof's remain the area's anchors, Kamenetz said.
"Part of the challenge is to maintain the traditional feel of older commercial corridors," he says. "In White Marsh, they've built The Avenue, which replicates the old community village feeling. That place could have been modeled after Woodlawn Village. What we have to do is alert people to the treasures that exist in their own neighborhoods."
Margie Reinhold has been working the Bauhof's counter for 50 years. Although she only works weekends now, her life has been measured by the friendliness she gives out and gets back serving the pastries.
"Most of the ladies here are from the community -- we know everybody and everybody knows us," she says. "I have enjoyed every single minute."
Pub Date: 3/11/98