In Cambridge, Ohio – my father’s hometown – there is a landmark at the center of town. Not the Guernsey county courthouse and all it’s majesty as you drive into this quintessential small American town.
When you come to the courthouse, take a right turn. You’ll see it about 1000 feet down on the left with the little iconic baker man sign.
Kennedy’s Bakery – serving Cambridge with sweet confection perfection since 1925. I don’t know much about the family split – I just know that it was near-sacriledge to deviate from the historical roots of the original store.
Splits in businesses/communities with close families/friends is a common thread throughout history. Wendy’s fast food founder Dave Thomas was once wooed and courted by Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders before making enough money from KFC to break away and start his own empire.
And speaking of empires, it was a family rift of power and control after the death of Muhammad that led to Sunnis (father-in-law) vs Shia (son-in-law) in Islam.
The King of England, Henry VIII (yes, the famous wife-loving/hating Henry the Eighth) wasn’t about to leave his legacy to fighting over an heir. With many wives unable to produce a definitive male heir, he sought yet another annulment from the Catholic church (in lieu of another beheading), which – spurred on by Martin Luther’s reformation – became the Protestant church. So if you’re a non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christian, you can thank Henry VIII.
Now the Kennedy’s of Cambridge may not be in the history books but eating at one (or the other) is certainly a religious experience. And yesterday, we learned why. Julie told me the original store (the only one I’ve ever visited) was “probably” open until 6p.
Uh no. I don’t do “probably”. The first leg (1000 miles) of our journey was passing right through Cambridge and Kennedy’s hereafter referred to as “heaven”. When Julie called, she learned that they closed at 4p and were not open on Sunday. It was 3:35p and we were 20-25 minutes away.
I didn’t give into the panicked urge to rush across town only to find near-empty shelves. Julie made another call – to the other store, gulp – hereafter referred to as “hell”. They were open until 6p AND open on Sunday.
Right there it didn’t feel right. When we pulled into the parking lot, it felt worse. It was poorly advertised/marked and had none of the charm of downtown. This was more strip mall.
We were immediately struck by the wide open doors and industrial fans blowing in and around the “store”. The product was in glass cases about 25 feet towards the back of the store so our first visual was overstocked party supplies.
This store is apparently going for the Kennedy’s & More offering. They skipped the Kennedy’s and landed right in the More.
Reluctantly, I ordered some tea cookies. And then a few donuts. Julie was like a kid in a candy store and wanted cakes and pies. No way, I couldn’t do that. This was just a “tease’ and I was struggling to be there supporting this store in the first place. We can’t load up here – save that for the REAL Kennedy’s.
And then I saw it. Our cookies were boxed up from one glass counter and now sitting atop the donut glass counter next to our donuts, when I looked down back into the donut display case.
A fly. Oh hell no. Oh hell YES. We were indeed in bakery hell.
So I looked back up at the cashier, who – let’s be real – was just “doing time” at this job and I said “Whoa, there’s a fly in WITH the donuts.” She didn’t even blink and her expression to me said “Yes sir, which one? Flies are $1.69 for half-dozen.”
But she didn’t really say that. In fact, she didn’t say ANYTHING. She didn’t apologize – nothing.
Unlike her, my outside words synced up with my inside words and I said “You know, that just lost it for me. We’ll leave the donuts.”
But I’ll be damned. I didn’t have the same strength with the tea cookies. We paid for them and walked out of hell. I hesitated and almost left them – but I knew there would be value in keeping them. If nothing else – for this story and a lesson in business marketing/branding.
And this morning, we went running back as heaven opened it’s glorious gates. It’s Monday 9am and we are indeed back in heaven. And the service from Jackie even as she trained Whitney (starting her first day as we walked in) was friendly, quick and every bit as sweet as the product itself.
That’s right – it’s Kennedy’s original tea cookies for breakfast today as we leave Cambridge and this leg of our trip. I’m certain tea cookies from Kennedy’s Bakery are made for Gods, prophets and kings – and for families on a crazy journey who enjoy visiting their roots once in a while.