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"Hindsights"


Looking back at:

Standing in line at Dietz Bakery


By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

There was a time when the line of people that stretched down the Fredericksburg sidewalk in the early morning hours could only mean a couple of things: (1) The Texas Lottery reached $100 million, or (2) Dietz Bakery was open.

Dietz Bakery was a Fredericksburg institution. It had a reputation for some of the best bread that ever got on the outside of a reuben sandwich.

The bakery that came to be called Dietz began in 1924 when Martin Schult opened a bakery in the Wahrmund Building at 312 East Main (today Der Lindenbaum). In 1929 Schult sold the business to William Moellendorf who had bakery experience in Gonzales, Luling and San Antonio. In 1939 Moellendorf sold out to his brother-in-law Theo Dietz.


Fredericksburg TX - Dietz Bakery
Dietz Bakery
Photo courtesy courtesy Gillespie County Historical Society.

The Dietz family ran the bakery for the next 70 years. Theo, born in Gillespie County in 1880 was an experienced baker having operated bakeries in Kerrville and Kingsville. In 1954 Theo's son Edgar, a flour salesman, took over the business. When Edgar retired, his son Don ran the bakery.

In 1965 Dietz Bakery moved up the street to 214 East Main next door to the Domino Parlor.

The workday at Dietz began at 2am when the early birds began sifting flour to velvety smoothness. Dietz used flour from Pioneer Mills in San Antonio - a company with roots in Fredericksburg.

Bakers then blended the ingredients in a large mixer. The mixed dough fermented for 2 hours before skilled hands weighed it and kneaded it on a long counter dusted with flour. Next workers molded the dough and placed it in baking pans.

Before going into the oven the molded dough sat in a rectangular wooden container called a "proof box." The steam from a kettle of hot water in the bottom of the proof box moistened the dough and caused it to rise.

As soon as the dough rose to the proper height bakers placed the containers in a gas-fired oven.

Many of the finished loaves sold over-the-counter at the bakery. The rest went to local grocery stores and restaurants.


Dietz Bakery made white bread, French loaf, rye, whole wheat and pumpernickel. A local favorite was a white loaf known as a "pull-apart". It was 2 loaves baked together then pulled apart, leaving a crusty "heel" at one end of each loaf.

The white bread had a chewy golden crust with a soft inside. The pumpernickel, made from coarsely-ground rye berries, was dark and hearty.

On many Fridays and Saturdays, and before special holidays, Dietz Bakery rose to the occasion and did 2 bakings. The second batch hit the shelves before noon.

The bakery also made cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes and doughnuts. I gain a pound just thinking about them.

But any way you slice it the bread was the star attraction. Dietz bread was front and center at thousands of family dinners, birthdays, wedding parties and special occasions. There are quite a few locals still around who remember walking home cradling Dietz bread - the loaf wrapped in white paper, still warm from the oven.



In Fredericksburg, Dietz had a corner on the bread market. When I first came to town I took a loaf of ordinary store-bought bread to a party. Big mistake. Nobody would touch it. I was the butt of bread jokes for months.

Many of the people I talked to remember the aroma of Dietz Bakery more than anything else. The smell of freshly baked bread overwhelmed the brain and erased all other thoughts from the mind. It lured customers, even tourists, to Dietz's door, drawn by an irresistible force.

Looking back it's hard for me to separate the bread from the culture and the times that produced it. Dietz Bakery, like the people of Fredericksburg, forged ahead through good times and bad. Dietz supplied this community with bread through WWII, numerous armed conflicts, the Cold War, hippies, the moon landing, Watergate, disco, the fall of the iron curtain and 9/11.

A loaf of Dietz bread was a taste of history and one of those rare things worth standing in line for.


Michael Barr
"Hindsights" September 15, 2021 Column

Sources:
"Rites Here Today For Theo Dietz," Fredericksburg Standard, March 9, 1966.
"Hours of Preparation Go Into Baking Dietz Bread," Fredericksburg Standard, May 19, 1965.
"First Federal Open House Set," Fredericksburg Standard, March 16, 1977.




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