DODGEVILLE — When the family-owned Quality Bakery closed for a week recently to complete a remodeling project, area people went into a panic. In the family’s best estimate, it had been at least 40 years since the bakery was last closed for a week, and people were quick to notice this downtown Dodgeville staple was on a brief hiatus.
But customers can be assured that the fresh paint and facelift to the retail portion of the bakery hasn’t changed what has made the Quality Bakery a hometown favorite since it opened in 1928 — goods baked fresh daily from scratch using family recipes passed down through the generations.
“We’re still using recipes that my grandfather used,” said owner Brian Crubaugh. “It’s what sets us apart.”
Brian’s grandfather, Laverne, purchased and opened the bakery in 1928, operating a retail store and sending a few employees on rural routes throughout the county, delivering mostly bread and buns to farm wives who met them at their trucks as they turned into the driveway.
Laverne passed away when Brian’s father, Mike, was still in high school, ushering in the second generation to operate the bakery. Upon graduation, Mike took over operations, and soon, eight of his children, including Brian, began filtering into the bakery to help with the family business.
Brian was 10 years old when he started cleaning floors, washing dishes and completing other small tasks around the bakery. He and his siblings would often work an hour before school and an hour after school, depending on each of their schedules. Once he graduated from high school, Brian went on to college for a year and a half before he started working in other bakeries around the state.
But when he realized it just wasn’t for him, he returned full time to the family business in 1978. He worked side by side with his father for 20 years before he purchased the Quality Bakery from him, making Brian the third generation to own the bakery.
The business continues to keep its family-oriented integrity, with his brother, Chris, his nephew, Mak, and his daughter, Courtney, all lending a hand.
“It’s the plus of working with family — they pull together to keep it going,” Brian said.
It was this family atmosphere that drew Courtney back into the business after 12 years of being a hairdresser. She is now the fourth generation to be involved in the nearly 100-year-old family business.
“I knew someone had to carry it on,” she said. “And I like the flexibility. I can almost raise my kids here like we were raised.”
She recalled the days when she and her siblings would practice counting back change, with Brian adding that his grandkids can count change better than some of the area high schoolers.
Ten people total are employed at the bakery, five full time and five part time. Brian also tries to enlist the help of a few local high schoolers on Saturdays. It’s a small bunch, but he likes it that way, and he doesn’t have any future plans to get bigger.
Brian has seen many changes while working in the industry. While many bakeries around the state are now using pre-made mixes from bags and frostings from buckets, the Quality Bakery is still making everything from scratch, starting at 9 p.m. each evening in preparation for the following day. It is also getting tougher to find some ingredients, like seven-grain flour mixes, as more and more bakeries are switching to pre-made mixes.
“It’s another plus for us,” he said. “We’re still doing the old recipes and it’s what people expect.”
The oven, still original to the bakery, has changed some too, converted from coal burning to gas. But one thing hasn’t changed, according to Courtney. And that is tradition.
Baked goods specific to holidays like Christmas and Easter still draw people into the bakery while traditional favorites like hot crossed buns and pasties keep frequent customers coming back. The bakery has also become well-known for its chocolate bismarks, maple long john donuts and saffron buns.
For special occasions, cookies and pies are popular, and around graduation time, it seems everyone in Iowa County dreams of a Quality Bakery cake to add to their celebration.
“People who grew up here and come back, this is generally the first or second place they come to,” Brian said.
And while other retail businesses are dying on main streets across the U.S., Brian is confident the Quality Bakery won’t become one of them.
“This bakery has made it through the Great Depression, a world war and the times of rations,” he said. “We’re into the fourth generation now and are hoping to keep it going.”