Since 1930, the bakers of Goll’s Bakery have worked to make life a little sweeter for folks in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Located downtown on North Washington Street, the now 82-year-old Goll’s Bakery sticks out against its brick neighbors with bright blue concrete walls and pink trim. The large window in front invites customers inside, boasting tall tiers of donuts, sticky buns, and coffee cake, and sweet smells waft through the air.
Eugene (Gene) Goll and his wife Elsie immigrated to Havre de Grace from Germany where they opened their small shop a day after returning from their honeymoon, unaware that they were laying the foundations for Harford County’s oldest bakery. Elsie worked behind the counter during the day, and Gene adopted the role of head baker, up at all hours of the night preparing his treats for distribution at the local grocery store in the early morning. Eighty-two year old Noble Mentzer, a loyal customer to this day, recalls the mini pies and rolls being delivered to the grocery store where he worked. “The pies sold for only 5 cents back then,” Mr. Mentzer remembers fondly, adding that Gene always arrived with products still warm from the oven and provided fresh bread nostalgic of “how my mother used to bake.”
The bakery gained popularity throughout the years as Gene became involved in the town’s community, joining both the Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce. He supported local organizations by catering dinner parties and picnics with decadent baked goods - and most notably, never charging for his services - before handing over the shop’s title to his son Bobby Goll in 1973.
Like his father, Bobby Goll ran the bakery in a family-oriented environment, and became a civic minded individual as well. He joined the Susquehanna Fire Company as a volunteer firefighter in 1952, rose to the position of president of the company, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors. Longtime customers like Mr. Mentzer reminisce about the days when the fire whistle would ring and Bobby Goll could be seen running quickly from the bakery to the nearby firehouse.
"Times have certainly changed, but oh yes… I used to fight fire in my paper hat and apron,” the white-haired, 73 year old Bobby Goll elaborates on the memory.
Today, Goll’s Bakery has entered its third generation of family ownership by Bobby Goll Jr. (main baker) and his sister Susan, who is in charge of personalized, made to order cake making and decorating. Bobby Goll Sr. continues to work in the shop, rousing from sleep before 5 am in order to prepare dough, pies, bread, and tarts for the day ahead. Despite the hustle of a rapid technology-driven world, life at the little bakery in Havre de Grace hasn’t swayed far from its past. The faded pink door starts swinging open and shut as early as 7 am, when customers saunter in sleepily to grab their steaming cup of coffee and sweet danish. On Saturday mornings, the line can be seen stretching outside of the store, causing a rush for the employees behind the counter who, even now, use calculators and pens and paper rather than a computer to add up prices. The stress that exists in the outside world doesn’t make it through the door at Goll’s.
“We never get too serious here,” Bobby Goll Sr. says with a smile as he removes crisp, golden bread from the large oven in the back of the store, explaining how he keeps the family business up and running. Since first opening their doors in 1930, the Goll family has made a habit not to use preservatives in their baking. Mr. Goll feels that this is unique, as “many grocery stores and other retail bakeries use quick bake off” or pre-made, frozen products. “90 percent of what we make today is still from scratch,” he claims as he wipes his hands, floured from the morning’s preparations, across his apron.
Many of the local customers are regulars, stopping in weekly or even daily to purchase a delectable snack. “When will you have the éclair and crème pies again?” a woman asks Mr. Goll as she eyes up the display case, referring to the seasonal pastry that is well liked but not always in stock.
Fortunately for customers, there are times even in the off season when they may be pleasantly surprised with this tasty treat, because as Mr. Goll replies with a smile, “I’ll make it when the mood strikes me.”