The last slice: Remembering Halepaska’s Bakery
While the bakery is closed their legacy will live on in kitchens around the Crossroads
VICTORIA, Texas- Newscenter 25 was the first to report on Sunday, April 26th about Halepaska’s permanently closing its doors after almost 70 years of service.
Halepaska’s Bakery has been at the center of many celebratory moments for people in the Crossroads throughout the generations. There was almost an audible gasp in the community when the news broke that they are closing permanently. We sat down with Mr. Halepaska to take a look back at where the journey all began.
Halepaska’s Bakery opened in 1953, and it started with one woman’s passion for baking and bringing a smile to her friends’ faces.
“And it started out as charity. My mom would always bake cakes for fundraising events for the church. And finally one day a lady came to her and said, ‘Would you bake a cake for me for my kid’s birthday? I’ll even pay you for it.’ Well, what a novel idea. And that settled how the business actually started- with charity,” shared Mr. Halepaska.
Tom Halepaska’s journey at the bakery started almost 50 years ago in 1971 when he took his mother up on an offer to come and join the family business.
“I worked my way through high school and to college and I got a degree from Texas A&I University in Kingsville in business. I was looking for a job and about that time my mom says, ‘Would you come into the bakery business and help us out?’ My dad had been feeling a little poorly and getting elderly as well. And I said, ‘Sure, I’ll be happy to help out for a while.”
The bakery started off as a very small business employing Halepaska, his mom and dad, and a few part-time employees. Not long after, Halepaska was married with kids on the way. It was at this point he realized it’s time to make a secure future for his family. “So you better make it grow or get the devil out. And so I decided to see if I could make it grow,” Halepaska chuckled.
Halepaska looks back fondly on the memories created with every bake and the memories the bakery got to be part of through the decades.
“The memories that stand out to us are brought to us by our customers. And the reason I say that is, on the Halepaska’s Bakery
Facebook, that thing has blown up with people telling their stories and it brings back memories of this event or that event. Though we’ve been bakers and we have been baking baked goods for so many years, I’ve got to ask myself, well, are we baking products, or are we baking memories?”
Tom Halepaska says the future is uncertain but they plan to preserve their legacy.
“While the future’s a little uncertain, we think that this will continue. There has been some interest expressed in others taking over the business. Fires and floods and hurricanes didn’t kill us, but we’ve just kinda gotten a little old to be doing this anymore and it’s time for us to move on and let someone younger give it a try.”
They are also releasing a cookbook this summer that will be full of crowd favorites. August is the target release date although it could be released as early as July.
“We are going to put out a cookbook and almost everybody has a favorite recipe or a favorite product we did, like the sprinkle sugar cookies is a perennial old favorite.” They will take the recipes they use for the bakery and scale down the measurements so they can be done in your home kitchen.
Halepaska shared with me that their 30 employees, both part-time and full time, have 258 years of combined experience. He speaks quite fondly of the people who have come to work at the bakery, whether it’s for 20 plus years or just to make some extra cash while in school. I asked him what’s next for everyone who was on the payroll now that they’re closed?
“The future is very uncertain, but in the short term they’re getting full unemployment, which is better than trying to nickel and dime around with partial or short part-time work, which is all we could have done if we attempt to just stay open, which we couldn’t anyway.”
On March 20th, 2020 Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order, in accordance with the guidelines set by the CDC, mandating that the public shall not eat or drink in restaurants, bars, or food courts. Halepaska’s Bakery closed their doors in compliance and the extra time left Halepaska’s wife with a realization.
“My wife commented the other day we’ve been off about a month because of being closed down, the whole month of April. She says, ‘Honey, do you realize we’ve never had four Saturdays off in a row since we’ve been married in 1972?’ And on top of that, she said, ‘We’ve never had four weeks off in a row since 1927. We have a little bucket list of things we’d like to do,” smiled Halepaska.
While they are taking the future in stride, they will miss their time in the bakery.
“We’re going to miss our customers and we’re going to miss our employees. We’re going to miss the daily interaction.”
While Halepaska’s Bakery might not be actively running there are possibilities for the future. For example, Halepaska’s daughter-in-law is considering putting together baking and decorating courses once a week. “She’s trying to put it together and see what the interest might be. And it might be something that’s done in the evenings once a week,” said Halepaska.
While they will be missed, I think it’s safe to say Halepaska’s was enjoyed by the Crossroads down to the last slice.