The History of Collin Street Bakery
Once Upon A Time In The Lone Star State
Well, howdy there! Welcome to the Collin Street Bakery, home of the world-famous DeLuxe® Fruitcake. Now, for those of you who don’t know about our bakery, we’re kind of a big deal in the fruitcake world. - Why’s that? Because basically, we were the first-ever, U.S.-based, mail-order fruitcake company. That’s a pretty fancy feather in our cap.
But, we weren’t always the world-renowned fruitcake magnate known and loved today. Oh no! We have humble beginnings that started over 125 years ago. Our story begins when a young immigrant entrepreneur traveled to the Lone Star State with a dream and a whisk…
A Match Made In Heaven
In 1896, when a man by the name of Augustus “Gus” Weidmann traveled from Wiesbaden, Germany to Corsicana, Texas with the dream of opening a bakery. Ladened with recipes from his motherland, it was Gus’ sole ambition to bake and share his authentic homemade breads and cakes. Shortly after settling in town, he purchased a storefront off the town’s main thoroughfare, Collin Street, and Collin Street Bakery was born.
The business, however, was not an immediate success. While Gus was a natural baker, he was far from a natural businessman. Shy and introverted, Gus lacked the specific salesmanship sparkle required to keep his bakery afloat. Luckily for Gus, in 1900, he was introduced to local entrepreneur, Thomas McElwee. The two took a shine to one another and a partnership was formed. Thomas agreed to man the bakery’s front-of-house operations, thus allowing Gus to stay where he referred, in the kitchen. In retrospect, had it not been for this partnership, it’s very possible Collin Street Bakery would not exist today.
With the newly minted duo in place, Collin Street’s business began to blossom. In the early 1900s, the bakery was best known for its freshly baked bread delivered directly to homes and businesses with the assistance of horse-drawn carriages. Over time, however, the demand for our bread began to outpace our delivery efforts and horse-drawn carriages were replaced by the far more efficient Model-T Trucks.
Bed & Breakfast
By 1906, Collin Street Bakery was thriving. With the local community clamoring for more and more of the bakery’s breads and cakes, Gus was struggling to keep up the demand. So, Thomas decided it was time to expand the business. A two-storied, second location, situated on the corner of 6th and Main, was purchased. The bakery would be located on the bottom floor and as for the top floor, Thomas had a plan.
You see, at this time, Corsicana was a booming oil town, tucked snugly in the crook of one of the country’s most-trafficked railroad intersections. For some time, Thomas McElwee had been observing the comings and goings of the town’s visitors; he watched as travelers arrived on one train, stayed the night, then departed on the next the morning after. With so many guests frequenting the town, Thomas astutely saw the value in owning rent-by-the-day lodging. So, he modified the second story of the newly purchased bakery location with individual rooms and began operating a luxury hotel.
In just a matter of weeks, business at the second location was booming! With a continuous flow of new customers visiting both the hotel and the bakery, it appeared Thomas had landed on a winning combination. And, because the Collin Street Bakery’s hotel was one of the more lavish and accommodating stays in the area, it drew visitors of high stature and wealth; visitors like opera singer Enrico Caruso, stage and film actor Will Rogers, Major League Baseball player John J. McGraw, circus owner John Ringling, and professional boxer “Gentleman Jim” Corbett.
Stumbled In Backwards
So, how did Collin Street go from a thriving local bakery to a globally-recognized, mail-order business? By complete accident that’s how! Turns out, some of life’s best ideas are simply stumbled upon. In the bakery’s case, our tumble into greatness occurred not too long after the hotel's grand opening...
For most guests, staying the night in a hotel situated atop a bakery was dangerously tempting. Mouth-watering aromas of freshly baked goods flooded the hotel day and night. Lured by the scent, most patrons would purchase cakes as gifts and treats just before leaving town. The most frequently bought item? - Our DeLuxe® Fruitcake!
Remember, most customers were simply passing through town, staying for a single night before continuing on to parts unknown. Because our DeLuxe® Fruitcakes were trusted to safely travel long distances, required no refrigeration, and were downright delicious any time of the day, they were a huge hit amongst out-of-towners. Once departing, customers would share a slice of fruitcake here and there, unknowingly broadcasting the Collin Street Bakery name to friends, family members, and even other fellow travelers.
Little did Thomas or Gus, Collin Street Bakery's name was being spread and celebrated near and far. Guests, travelers, and celebrities alike had all been sharing their cakes with friends and family, each of whom was eager to purchase a cake of their own. Soon, letters came pouring in, bearing requests for Collin Street to mail our fruitcakes to locations all across the nation. Not wanting to disappoint a single eager customer, Thomas and Gus began boxing up cakes and mailing them out, thus unknowingly starting one of the country's first mail-order food businesses.
Well a hop, a skip, and a jump later, here we are today. Tom McElwee and Gus Weidmann are no longer with us. Deeply connected to each other, they passed away within a year of one another. However, the management of Collin Street Bakery transitioned smoothly into experienced hands, remaining a family-owned and -operated business ever since.
Meanwhile, the unplanned global expansion of our humble bakery helped make us the business we are today. And over a hundred years later, many things haven’t changed. Granted, we no longer own the hotel and we no longer deliver in a horse and buggy BUT, we still make the world’s best dang fruitcake - the DeLuxe®. We still ship all over the world, year-round and we still call Corsicana our home.
We’ve perfected the art of baking quality goods, ensuring they arrive at your doorstep fresh and ready to eat. We’re practically mail order dessert experts. So, whether your order is for one cake or 1,000, we make certain your DeLuxe® will arrive in perfect condition anywhere in the world. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not! Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee means if you don’t absolutely love what arrives, we’ll make it right.
So put our skills to the test! Order one of our world-famous DeLuxe® Fruitcakes today and see for yourself if we live up to the hype. Our DeLuxe® Fruitcake is just a few clicks away. Available in a variety of sizes AND in sliced and unsliced versions, you're guaranteed to find something you like.