Hadorn's Bakery celebrates 75 years of feeding customers' sweet tooth cravings

The Kentucky Standard
October 2, 2010
By Peter W. Zubaty

One recent morning well before dawn, while rolling out the dough to make that day's baked goods, Greg Hadorn took a short break to do some number crunching.

He had never really sat down and figured out the amount of ingredients Hadorn's Bakery goes through in a year, and the results were eye-opening.

More than 4,000 pounds of cake batter; 24,500 pounds of powdered sugar.

"Unreal," Hadorn said. "Unbelievable — I'm surprised myself."

More than 3,500 pounds of Danish dough and nearly 6,000 pounds of chocolate. What really hammered it home was the 63,504 pounds of doughnut dough.

"Holy Mackerel!" Hadorn exclaimed.

"That's a lot of doughnuts, isn't it, boss?" said Dustin Wilson, who assists Hadorn in the kitchen.

Pick an average Sunday morning to stop by the bakery, and you'll see those 63,504 pounds flying out the door, one yum-yum and pretzel twist at a time.

"It's crazy and hectic all the time," said Michelle Hadorn, Greg's daughter, who is one of the friendly faces greeting the public six days a week at 7 a.m. when the store opens its doors.

Bill Coomes, 84, considers himself a regular — after all, he knew Greg as a child from back in the old Portland neighborhood where the Hadorn family lived. Coomes, whose family has deep Bardstown roots, said he regularly gathers with friends on the porch and enjoys coffee and his favorite, a chocolate cake doughnut.

"We enjoy sitting around talking, eating a good doughnut and solving the problems of Bardstown," he said with a chuckle. "All the sages of Bardstown gather on this porch from time to time."

Herman Hadorn, Greg's grandfather, was a native of Switzerland who relocated to Louisville and started the family business in 1932, using a horse-drawn carriage to deliver delectable baked goods made in his home kitchen to the folks in the old neighborhood. Greg Hadorn still has a scaled-down replica of the old cart that a customer made many years ago.

Hadorn's Bakery celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, marking the 1935 date when Herman Hadorn opened the original bricks-and-mortar store on 18th and Hill streets. The store moved a few blocks south in 1947, relocating to the corner of Dixie Highway and Vorster Avenue. Greg's father, Carl, opened the family's Bardstown location in 1977 on Kentucky Home Square, then later moving to the current location downtown on the corner of Fourth and Flaget.

"If it hadn't been for my dad, I wouldn't know any of this stuff. He taught all six of us," Greg Hadorn said of his four brothers and one sister. Two of Hadorn's brothers remained in the bakery business, but he's the only one left in it now since the Dixie Highway location closed about a year ago.

Hadorn took over the Bardstown location after wrapping up a 15-year military career following the culmination of Operation Desert Storm.

"We've been blessed — we've got some great customers," he said. "I'll bet we've run through three to four generations of some families. It's unreal how fast they grow up."

Hadorn keeps some pretty odd hours, but they're normal for the baking business. He's usually in bed by 6 p.m., a necessity since the workday starts at 1:30 a.m. That's when Hadorn and his two assistants —Wilson and Dustin Tuller — start working on the dough that will go into that day's doughnuts and other pastries.

"I've got two of the best, hard workers in Nelson County," Hadorn said of his kitchen help. Sure, the hours make any semblance of a nightlife impossible, but there are benefits.

"I was out fishing at Taylorsville Lake by 10:30 the other morning," Tuller said.

As the workday cranks up, the kitchen transforms into a dance floor, the three bakers weaving around one another with trays of this and that. On busier nights, it can seem like an all-night tango as the dough goes from the mixing bowl to the work table to the fryers and ovens, then out for the finishing touches before that day's baked goods make their way to the storefront's display cases.

"We're moving from the time we walk in to the time we leave" at about 8:30 a.m., Hadorn said.

The customers definitely appreciate the effort.

"We come for the good doughnuts and the good customer service," said Brooke King, who regularly joins several generations of her family for morning doughnuts on the weekends.

"We started coming when it was located out in the shopping mall," Barb Mattingly chimed in. "It's a family tradition."

Some folks will even make special trips to Bardstown, Hadorn said, coming from as far away as Lexington. A number of people from Louisville began trekking to Bardstown to get items they used to purchase at the Dixie Highway store in Louisville before it closed.

Glazed, chocolate-glazed and doughnut holes are always popular, of course, as are the iconic yum-yums, which are something of a cinnamon pretzel twist drizzled with chocolate and white icing.

Greg Hadorn said the yum-yum is a recipe his father borrowed from a Middle Eastern baker in Lexington, then modified.

"Carl thought,'Why don't I oil it down, put cinnamon on it and chocolate and white sweet roll icing?'" Hadorn said. "I think dad just got the shape from the guy and added the other stuff later. The people buy the heck out of them."

R.J. Sympson watched his 3-year-old daughter, Reagen, gaze longingly into the display case on a recent Sunday morning, pondering their order while waiting in a line several people deep, filling up the small storefront.

"Her, the doughnut holes," he said. "Me, the yum-yums. They just look good."

Wilson said others seem to think so as well as he carried a fresh tray out to the display cases after finishing up with the icing drizzle.

"On the weekends, we do 11 (trays) of these," he said. "There's yum-yums stacked everywhere."

Greg Hadorn said he's honored and grateful for the public's response to his family's recipes.

"That they keep coming back says the product speaks for itself," he said. "They keep coming back, and their kids do, too."

Peter W. Zubaty can be reached at 348-9003 Ext. 115 or by e-mail at pzubaty@kystandard.com.

This story, written by Peter Zubaty, was provided to One Knox courtesy of The Kentucky Standard. Read more stories from The Kentucky Standard at www.kystandard.com.