Daily Bread Shop: The Rise and Fall of a Turn-of-the-Century Olympia Bakery


In December 1915, eager children pressed their faces against the windows to glimpse a magical scene. Nestled between the Christmas trees was a small sugar nativity scene. That and a display of ice cream cakes and other delicacies promised good things in Olympia’s Daily Bread Shop at 426 Washington Street.

The Nativity scene was created by elderly artist Hugo Schultz, who made the store windows a local highlight. During his tenure at the store, he created other displays, including a historic model of Fourth Avenue in 1867 and a story of the Greek sea nymph Galatea and goddess Aurora.

The owner of the Daily Bread Shop was Ludvig Dornecker, who went by the name Louis or Louie. Born in Lanthud, Bavaria, Germany on August 11, 1882, Dornecker immigrated to the United States and arrived in New York in June 1899. He became an American citizen in 1912. Dornecker was married to Rose “Rosie” Bauer ( 1878-1953), who immigrated from Germany with his parents when he was 12 years old. They had two children, Anna and Louis Jr.

Daily Bread Shop advertisement from the 30 June 1916 issue of the Olympia Daily Recorder.
Daily Bread Shop advertisement from the 30 June 1916 issue of the Olympia Daily Recorder. Photo credit: Washington State Library

Dornecker spent a few years in Tacoma as a foreman at the Tacoma Baking Company before coming to Olympia. He became the owner of Arlitt’s Bakery at 513 East Fourth in 1910. Dornecker then purchased and remodeled the old Thomas Bakery at 426 Washington Street and reopened it in March 1911. He converted the old garage into more bakery space, dividing his business between the retail and wholesale sections. Not knowing what to name his shop, he offered a $15 prize to anyone who could come up with a name he liked.

The rise of the daily bread shop in Olympia

On March 20, he announced the winning name as Daily Bread Shop – as in “Give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer. A Mrs. Haines suggested the name.

The shop made a wide range of baked goods, in addition to bread and rolls. They decorated cakes for birthdays and parties while producing French bread and Saratoga chips. In March 1914, they added potato fritters, which use mashed potatoes to replace most or all of the flour), as Wednesday specials.

One of his baked specialties was more unusual. In September 1913, Dornecker introduced “health bread”. He had worked for Father Sebastian Kneipp in Bad Wörishofen. A Catholic priest and health reformer considered one of the ancestors of naturopathy, Kneipp created a type of whole wheat bread. It is called kneippbrød in Norway where it has become very popular.

A sweeter specialty was raisin bread. First brought to market on Raisin Bread Day, April 1, 1913, for a quarter people could enjoy “three delicious, crusty loaves” of “a confection which he said would go perfectly with ambrosia of the gods at their feast on Olympus”. ”

Publicity text for Olympian's Mother's Bread from November 1913.
Mother’s Bread was a specialty of the Daily Bread Shop, as seen in this November 30, 1913, issue of the Morning Olympian. Photo credit: Washington State Library

The biggest seller in the Daily Bread Shop was Mother’s Bread or Mother’s Malted Milk Bread or simply Milk Bread. First made at Arlitt, Dornecker promoted it as “the lightest, whitest, best bread any baker can make.” The store’s bread and other products were also sold in local grocery stores.

As one of the city’s leading bakers, Dornecker was active in his community. He was a founding member of the local Knights of Columbus and the National Union (a fraternal insurance organization). A member of the Elks, he often cooked for their events and displayed turkeys in his store windows for the annual turkey trot fundraiser. Dornecker was also a judge in a war bread contest at the Washington State Traveling Library in March 1918. His wife Rose was active in Catholic women’s organizations.

The Fall of Daily Bread at Olympia

At first, Dornecker’s business prospered. In 1914, his store even made deliveries twice a week to Oakville, Littlerock, Lacey, Rochester, Gate and Tenino. He rented space in the new Oasis Hotel Annex building in Tenino, complete with a baking oven encased in Tenino sandstone that had a capacity of 450 loaves at a time.

However, the city’s bakers struggled with rising flour prices. In September 1916, they cut 5-cent loaves from the market, making 10 cents for a 20-ounce loaf the norm. However, things were starting to fall partly for the Daily Bread Shop. In 1916, Dornecker was fined $1 and costs for selling underweight bread at the Mays Brothers grocery store in Tenino.

The Daily Bread Shop was an Olympia bakery run by Louis Dornecker
The Daily Bread Shop was an Olympia bakery run by Louis Dornecker, who is probably the mustachioed man in the center of the picture. His wife Rose is probably the woman to his right in black. Photo courtesy of Washington State Library, Talcott Collection

But things got worse. “Donecker’s Bakery Foul,” headlined the Nov. 11, 1918, issue of the Morning Olympian. Mrs. WH Coffin, a Washington state health inspector, described the bakery as something from Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”. “The conditions,” she wrote, “that existed in Dornecker’s bakery were absolutely the worst I have ever seen in the state.” She described backed up sewers and dead mice in barrels. Much worse, the worms and weevils were in the cobweb filled hopper under the sieve that went straight into the blender. Dornecker confessed that he hadn’t cleaned the hopper since it was installed two years earlier.

The Daily Bread has been investigated during a public health crackdown in the vicinity of Camp Lewis – now JBLM. While the Daily Bread Shop advertisements had promised “purity, quantity, quality”, with products “made clean” and “packaged clean”, this was no longer true. Dornecker was fined $100 and costs.

Dornecker and his family moved to Oregon in 1919. He operated the American Bakery in Bend before moving to Prineville to operate another bakery. In his later years, Dornecker worked as a night watchman at a sawmill. He died on June 14, 1950 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Tumwater.

Since the closure of the Daily Bread Shop, the safety of local bakeries is ensured by strict sanitary standards and people can enjoy their delicious products without worry. The town continues to have a thriving range of bakeries where people can find their daily bread and more.

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