Dwain Jacobson makes closing of legendary Jacobson’s Bakery official; still hopes to sell

A Galva landmark closed its doors at the end of December after being in business for nearly 85 years.

Jacobson's Bakery, 326 Front St., will definitely be missed by many. At the time of its closing, the bakery was in operation about three nights per week with two employees.

The family-owned business was started in August of 1933 by Carl and Minerva Jacobson. 

After their deaths, their son, Dwain, took over the bakery. Now 89, Dwain says it’s time to retire. His wife Del was the bookkeeper. Dwain and his wife have three children who all  worked at the bakery at some point — Dan, Denise, and Diane — as well as some of the grandchildren and nephews. 

 

Honor system

The bakery ran on the honor system after Minerva was not in the bakery and no  longer waiting on customers.  There was a metal box with a padlock, and it had a sign that instructed customers to put their money in the slot. It also said if you didn’t have the correct change, to put it in the next time you came to the bakery. There was a book to write down any special orders and the date requested.

Several restaurants had standing orders for baked goods each week. The baked goods were always displayed on racks, tables and the counter for people to purchase.  Special orders were in the second room with names on them. People always wondered if there was any other business that ran on the honor system.

"I really appreciate Galva,” Dwain said. “Only in Galva could you have the honor system."

The equipment is for sale and if anyone is interested, they can contact Dwain. He would like to sell the business and have it continue.

The building is owned by the Galva Odd Fellows.

 

The famous rusks

The bakery's top seller was always the rusks. They were sold nationwide for years. The bakery also sold rye bread, coffee cakes, cinnamon rolls, mountain rolls and apple bread. 

Dwain said before World War II, the bakery also made and sold more pastries, cookies and pies.

At one time, Dwain said the bakery had baked goods in 138 Eagle stores. During the war, he noted it was hard to get flour and sugar and the bakery had to cut back.

Dwain was not always in the bakery business. He was a farmer and recognized as Galva’s Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2014. 

 

From the Galvaland pages

 The following was taken from several Galvaland magazines where the late George Swank wrote about Jacobson's Home Bakery.

It was stated that the rusks made in Galva, Illinois, were shipped to every state in the union and even to the land of the tortillas — Mexico.

Quite often strangers driving thru Galva would stop at the bakery to say they have eaten the rusks and want to take a supply back home with them.

Minerva Jacobson was quoted saying that mothers say their babies cut their teeth on our rusks. She even said people told her that doctors had recommended the rusks. In a story in 1963, it stated that many orders went to the Quad Cities as many Swedish families lived in that area.

Bakery operations in 1963 continued almost around the clock. Carl was busy at night when most people were sleeping.

The dough was prepared at night and placed in three large steel bowls each containing 80 pounds of dough.

In the evening, Carl would begin his work of hand-rolling the dough into four- pound loaves. The next step was to divide each loaf into 36 biscuits which are placed on large pans. This work took most of the night and then the toasting process began, which took another four hours. Then the rusks would be ready for sacking and boxing.

Many years before the Jacobsons began their bakery, there was always rusks on their table as Minerva made them on a cook stove in their home.

The Jacobsons at one time had 11 or 12 employees.

One man, William K. "Billy" Schmidt, a veteran baker who died in June of 1961, worked at the bakery and was a valued employee who baked for 25 years. He worked until he was 85. Schmidt was in charge of the big oven at night.

 

History of the bakery

The Jacobson location on Front Street was built in 1884 by O. A. Hempstead. The Galva Odd Fellows purchased the building in 1913 and still own the building today.

The Miller Bakery opened in the location in 1911. George Teuscher came to Galva in 1912 and started working in the bakery. He then started his own bakery behind the location and then took over the bakery when the Millers closed. He stayed until 1932 when he closed the bakery and moved to  a location on Market Street.

Minerva and Carl Jacobson took over the bakery in 1933.

The Front Street location contained a large oven which was installed in 1914 when it was operated by H. J. Miller. The oven extended from the basement to more than midway through the main floor, and contained 70 tons of brick, concrete, iron and sand, and was 16-feet square. 

It was stoker fed and could not be converted to gas. Dwain said he had to take the old oven out of the building years ago. The building now has a big oven with six revolving trays that hold 18 baking pans.

Carl passed away at the age of 73 in his home after shoveling snow on Feb. 22,  1974. Minerva continued the bakery.

 

Chicago Tribune article

In 1987, Jacobson's Bakery was featured in a Chicago Tribune article. Jacobsons was one of 18 businesses in Illinois which received a salute. The intent of the article was to show the diversity and quality of made-in-Illinois foods.

This is what the article said about Jacobson's bakery:

Jacobson's Home Bakery — A reputation built in toast? That's how owner Dwain Jacobson talks about his family business.

This  54-year-old Swedish bakery makes rusks — slightly baked yeast bread toasted until golden-brown and crisp — in plain and cinnamon. The shape of these toasts is rectangular, the texture fine-grained.  

The recipe comes from the family matriarch Minerva Jacobson. Using fresh eggs, but no preservatives, are the only secrets Jacobson will share. 

On the drawing board is a cinnamon raisin rusk. Available mail order by the case only $12 — 12 boxes per case, each contains nine pieces of toast. 

Also available at Eagle stores for about $1 per box. Jacobson's Home Bakery, 326 Front Street, Galva, IL  61434. 309-932-2560.