Things You “Dough-nut” Know About the Old Slinger Bakery

There’s nothing like biting into a freshly glazed doughnut on a Saturday morning or slathering a slice of scratch-made bread in butter. Bonus points for the taste buds if the treats come from a local business. Washington County has its own current collection of bakeries, from custom-decorated cookie businesses to nostalgic-feeling pastry shops, but every local industry must start somewhere! Try to keep your mouth from watering as you read about one of Slinger’s major early bakeries. 

Located at 128 Kettle Moraine Drive, in what is now Freideman Chiropractic, Frank Kechelmeier Sr. began a bakery in 1900. He was a first-generation immigrant and ran the bakery with the help of his wife and sons. The bakery assumed the name “Palace Bakery” in 1920. It became Slinger Bakery in 1940 when Frank Jr. took it over with his wife.

slinger historic bakery with The Tower Heritage Center
‘Ladislaus Kachelmeier, son of Frank Kachellmeier, driving the Palace Bakery delivery truck. around 1930’

The bakery had a small storefront (pictured below) out of which the Kachelmeier family sold their bakery items as well as other products, ranging from oats and coffee to digestive stimulants and gum. On a peak Saturday, the bakery would sell 400 loaves of bread, 90 coffee cakes, and 100 hard rolls. In addition, an assortment of Danish and sweet rolls were offered and their commercial fryers could cook up to 60 dozen doughnuts in a given day. The Kechelmeier’s also offered hot ham and Kaiser rolls on Sundays and whole roasted turkeys near Thanksgiving. 

From Morning to Night at the Bakery

At the Kachelmeier bakery, a baker’s day wouldn’t begin early in the morning, but rather late at night at around 10 pm. The oven needed to be lit, and the dough was mixed and set to rise before being placed into the oven. A lot of the work was done by hand, besides the help of some loaf molding machines that were later purchased.

In the summers of the early 1900s, rolls and loaves were delivered by horse and truck to Big Cedar Lake during its peak resort days. Kachelmeier baked goods were also enjoyed by the Slinger School District for many years.

Historic bakery storefront in Slinger, Wisconsin with The Tower Heritage Center
‘Frank Sr. and daughter Marie in Kachemeier Bakery Storefront, Late 1930s’

Wood-Fired Ovens and the Uniform Bread Law

The Slinger Bakery had a large European-inspired wood-fired oven that cooked almost everything they sold in store. It was ten feet deep and ran on wood scrap purchased from Wisconsin’s Northwoods, and the slow cooking made for thick and crispy crusts on bread. A fire would be lit the night before and would burn for 5 hours, as the heat absorbed by the brick is what would cook the bread and treats. 

carrying on Tradition

Baking out of a wood-fired oven was quite the craft. There was no thermostat and it required precise timing as the order and combination of baking certain items was necessary to preserve steam. Frank would use a bread peel with a long wooden handle to move bakery items in, out, and around the large oven. The Slinger Bakery was unique in the way they continued those old traditions of baking in a wood-fired oven through the business’s entire life, despite the converted use of gas ovens by most bakers into the 30s and 40s. 

Distinct flavor profile

Wood-burning stoves gave the food a distinct flavor profile but became difficult to maintain in the bakery’s later years. Scrap wood was beginning to be repurposed more frequently into pressboard and was harder to get. The state also introduced a “uniform bread law” which required commercially sold loaves of bread to retain a specific weight. The wood oven process made it difficult to determine how much moisture weight was lost in baking, and making bread suitable for selling became a lot of work. 

Bakery of Slinger in 1930 with The Tower Heritage Center
‘Frank Kachelmeier Jr. with his parents, Frank Sr. and Frances, and his sister Marie in their bakery. Captured in the late 1930s’

Slinger Bakery was not shut down, but Frank Jr. and his wife Theresa decided to retire in the 60s. The building has since housed small stores and antique shops before being the home of Friedman Chiropractic. Tom Friedman still has the old bakery storefront’s bread cabinets in his office today.

References

Slinger Advancement Association, Schleisingerville to Slinger 1869 to 2019 (2019)

“Slinger Bakery.” Clio. Accessed July 19, 2023.

Slinger Bakery, Photograph, 1910, Schleisingerville to Slinger 1869-2019.

Slinger Bakery Storefront Counter, Photograph, late 1930s, Schleisingerville to Slinger 1869-2019.

Kachelmeier Family inside Bakery, Photograph, late 1930s, Schleisingerville to Slinger 1869-2019.

Palace Delivery Truck, Photograph, early 1930s, Schleisingerville to Slinger 1869-2019.

Williams, D. E. In The Spirit of West Bend. 1980.

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