A German chocolate Danish after church, buttercream-frosted decorated cakes for a birthday, peanut coffeecakes for morning meetings, and filled cupcakes for a shower — Wood Bakery has been happy to be a part of traditions and celebrations for several generations.
Owners Jim and Barbara Schmitt are grateful for a loyal clientele and newcomers who walk through the door at 115 W. First St. in downtown O’Fallon. That’s why adapting with the times and using social media is an important marketing tool for a 50-year-old establishment, Jim Schmitt said.
“People come in who didn’t know we were here before,” Jim said. “There are more people downtown now, with some of the new businesses, and that’s good for us.”
The Schmitts have owned the business since 2000, but Jim has been a part of it since the beginning. In August 1967, he became manager when George Wood bought the place, but had worked at the original bakery part-time while in high school, washing pans and other tasks.
“People ask why didn’t I change the name. I didn’t want to because I worked all those years trying to build up the business as Wood Bakery,” Jim said.
To see it thriving after all these years is gratifying enough.
“It makes you feel good, like I’m doing something right,” he said.
He still wakes up at 3 a.m. these days.
“You name it, I’ve worked every shift there is,” he said.
Barb became involved 38 years ago. Their three children — Laura, Joe and John — have all worked there, too. They began the same way their father did.
“They started out washing pans,” Jim said.
Jim’s sister, Lucy Adcock, is part of the staff, having started in high school. Waiting on children makes her day.
“I like to see the little kids light up when they come in,” she said.
Customers can purchase baked goods and beverages from the shop, ready-to-go or in the refrigerated cases. Coffee is always brewing, too — regular or fancy.
A long glass counter displays individual sweet treats — cherry and apple hand pies, gooey butter cake and cheesecake slices, old-fashioned peanut squares, chocolate chip sandwiches, iced decorated cookies and regular-sized cupcakes.
Customer service continues to be a point of pride.
“We’ve loved the people the most. All kinds of people have walked in the place, and then their kids come in. We have people who moved away that come back in when they’re visiting,” Barbara Schmitt said. “They still love our products.”
Jen Ko, of O’Fallon, who has worked the counter at Wood for 14 years, said the customers are the best part of her job.
She joked that her longevity is because she doesn’t have a sweet tooth.
“That’s why I think I can work here this long. They know I’m not eating the product! Once in a while, I will get a sugar craving, and then I’ll eat a doughnut hole, and I’m fine,” she said.
Everything is baked fresh at the shop, except for Baklava, a Greek pastry, and bagels.
“We order them,” Jim said.
While adding products that appeal to today’s tastes, Wood Bakery maintains the items that have been seasonal favorites and must-haves for special occasions and holidays.
The glazed doughnut is still the No. 1 seller.
Iced cookies, with red-hots as the eyes for rabbits at Easter, ghosts for Halloween, and snowmen for Christmas, harken back to a different era. There are hearts at Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, and bears the rest of the year. Eclipse and Minions cookies were recent offerings. There are a couple different St. Louis Cardinals shapes, too.
“They sell better when the Cardinals are playing better,” Jim said with a laugh.
At Christmastime, they bake 25 to 30 different kinds of cookies, including such German specialties as Springerle.
Holidays remain a big part of the business.
“Every holiday seems to get bigger. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day didn’t use to be much, now they are big, and Mardi Gras is getting bigger. The Pi Day, 3/14, is a big one, and it was unheard of years ago,” Jim said.
Cakes can be ordered, or you can pick out one there, and they will add a name in icing.
They are no longer decorating wedding cakes, however. Jim said the trend toward elaborate cakes with fondant embellishments, as seen on the “Ace of Cakes” and “Cake Boss” food TV shows, wasn’t something they wanted to move into.
Their decorated cakes are offered in several flavors, such as red velvet instead of the usual chocolate, yellow, white or marble.
A special checkerboard cake of vanilla and chocolate is very popular, as are their specialty flavors, like carrot and black forest. The bakery knows customer favorites, too — so much so that the staff knows what the order will be when certain patrons walk in the door, and they will have it ready for them.
Daily specials are offered, as well as other specials at different times of the year.
Wood Bakery delivers beyond O’Fallon. Two delivery drivers drop off doughnuts, pastries and decorated seasonal cookies at 70 different locations daily — namely convenience stores and hospitals.
When they’re not working, the Schmitts enjoy family time. They have six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and everyone is nearby.
But Jim, 75, shows no signs of retiring.
“In 25 more years, I’ll be 100. Then I’ll think about it,” he said.