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Earning a living by raising dough

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Michelle Gallon shows the types of cans that she learned how to bake in and a sweet potato pie that some of her customers love.


POSTED March 28, 2013 2:06 a.m.

Michelle Gallon has fond memories of her grandmother.

There were the days as a young girl in Kenosha, Wis. – Gallon grew up in nearby Racine – that she spent learning how to bake in the matriarch’s kitchen out of old cans because she couldn’t afford to go out and buy actual pans.

And then there were the days, recently, as the owner of Michelle’s Golden Brown Breads when she got to show her grandmother that she had taken the recipes passed down to her and built a business she could be proud of – with customers coming every week to stock up on their favorite “Boston brown bread.”

This month marks the second anniversary of Gallon’s Louise Avenue storefront operation. The Bulletin caught up with her to find out what exactly goes in to preparing baked goods for her customers and what she remembers the most about those days in Kenosha.

A lot of recipes get passed down through families. Are the things that you prepare today the same things that you used to cook with your grandmother?

“We used to cook them together out of cans – using all natural ingredients without any preservatives. I just paid attention to what it was that she did. She didn’t have the money to buy pans, but the aroma of cooking was still there – I’m going all the way back to when I was only seven-years-old. Way, way, way back.”

What’s the hardest thing about operating your own bakery now that you have a storefront operation?

“Keeping all of the markets pleased – keeping orders and deliveries on-time and keeping everybody happy. You want to be somebody that’s good and dependable, and we have customers we need to take care of. We’re in Zanatto’s in Willow Glen and we’re working on getting into Lunardi’s right now in Los Altos. That can be the tough part sometimes.”

What do you love the most about what you do?

“Being in business for myself. My grandmother couldn’t believe that her products were selling so well at farmers markets – it was a great gift to be able to give her before she passed. Right now is when our season pretty much picks up, and the markets that we’re in start up.”

Are there any really difficult parts to baking?

“Definitely the prepping. Getting the fruits and vegetables and everything all ready to go. The baking is the easy part. When you’re working in a bakery you have to do everything efficiently. You don’t go back and wash just a single pan out – you’re trying to do as much as you can at one time.”

Are traditions – recipes and the secrets that go with them – being lost on today’s generation?

“I definitely think that it’s being lost on the young today. Everybody is so used to eating fast food and buying so many things in bulk – so much product – for the prices that they buy them at that they don’t stop and think about what it takes to make them. Our prices have stayed the same since we first started, and we’ve added special things as well. But those are just falling by the wayside.”

What’s your all-time favorite thing to bake?

“The Boston brown bread. That’s still my favorite – it was her original. Nothing can beat that flavor – nuts and dates and raisins served with cream cheese. She should bring it with her to parties and all of her friends loved it and you just can’t find it anymore.”

Do you still cook in cans?

“I have a lady that lives near Jack London Square that comes in with her husband and they’ll bring me in cans from time-to-time, but I just can’t prepare enough volume by doing it that way. We don’t eat green beans and corn and things out of cans like we used to, and it’s not easy to accumulate them like it was at one time.”

What do you like about the Manteca’s Farmer’s Market and being a local business owner?

“It’s a very small community with very friendly people. When it was down at Library Park I liked it very much because it was still small and you’d get a good breeze through there and everybody really seemed to like coming and trying fresh baked goods. This will be my sixth year out there. I’m looking forward to it already.”

Michelle’s Golden Brown Breads is located at 273 W. Louise Avenue. The business will soon be open seven-days-a-week from noon to 7 p.m. For additional information, call (209) 808-4270.

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