100 Years of Rising Dough: Baltimore’s Baking Industry

An exhibition honoring the Paterakis Family of the H&S Family of Bakeries

A century ago, hundreds of small bakeries dotted the Baltimore landscape. Every day, these neighborhood businesses served up fresh bread directly to local residents, along with sweet baked goods. About a dozen wholesale bakeries supplied the city’s restaurants, hotels, and other venues.

As grocery stores and supermarkets took over providing Baltimoreans with their daily bread, many neighborhood bakeries closed. Those that survived focused on offering treats such as pies, cakes, and cookies. A few turned their own tasty specialties into brands beloved throughout the region. Others formed popular local chains. Meanwhile, wholesale bakeries became large industrial enterprises that employed thousands.

Yet, much about the bakery process has stayed the same. In a fast-paced digital world, baking remains a largely labor-intensive, non-computerized process. It still takes time for the dough to rise.

Exhibition Update

The BMI is proud to announce that the museum’s Bakery exhibition has been updated with new displays and labels that highlight the contributions of immigrant communities to Baltimore’s bakery landscape and that explore the history of labor organizing within the baking industry.

Any history of Baltimore’s baking industry would be incomplete without highlighting one of our city’s most iconic businesses, H&S Bakery, which was established in 1943 by Greek immigrant Steve Paterakis and son-in-law Harry Tsakalos. When Steve’s son John took over the business in 1952, he made the decision to focus on wholesale orders to restaurants and grocery stores.

A 1965 handshake deal between John Paterakis and Ray Kroc, head of a growing Chicago-based fast-food chain called McDonald’s, turned H&S into a bread-making powerhouse. By 1980 it turned out 18 million buns per week for McDonald’s East Coast restaurants. It remains one of the nation’s largest family bakeries, with third- and fourth-generation Paterakis family members involved in the business.

The BMI is grateful to all of the 2020/2021 Industrialist of the Year sponsors that made this new display possible.

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