Amy Hollis got an early taste for the bakery business.
“I was started folding pie boxes at 4 by my mom, during the holidays,” said the owner of Duke Bakery in Granite City and Alton. “Dad paid me a penny a box. The stack was taller than me.”
That eventually turned into a full-time job at the Alton store after college. Amy is the third generation to run the business, opened in 1951 by her grandparents, Christ and Helen Doucleff. The Granite City location opened in 2006.
Amy’s husband, Ben Hollis, 36, is co-owner and does “whatever needs to be done,” he said from behind a glass counter stacked with saucer-sized moon pies ($2.79) and big smiley face sugar cookies ($1.50). He runs the production end of the bakery, including sales to wholesale vendors. She does the organizing, including payroll, scheduling and working with the staff.
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“Amy does all the stuff nobody gets to see,” he said.
Amy, 43, is always looking for new ideas from customers and employees. Cupcakes, for example, are big sellers and are relatively new to the bakery.
“The trend now is single, smaller servings,” she said.
Duke’s used to be mostly retail. But now it does a busy wholesale business as well which puts products in a variety of area restaurants, markets and convenience stores.
While that has expanded Duke’s reach, customers still like to step into a real bakery.
“I think there is a comeback to smaller and locally owned. It’s shifting back,” Amy said. “I think people want to spend their money and have it stay here and support” community businesses.
The bakery prides itself on offering some ethnic pastries, from baklava and cannoli to cream — also called Vienna — bread ($2.49), a popular item in Granite City, Amy said. Nut rolls during the Christmas season are hard to keep on the shelves and cream horns are a classic favorite.
Year-round, “Doughnuts are our top sellers,” she said, at $8.49 for a dozen. Not far behind are specialty cakes — an 8-inch round is $21.95 — and decorated cookies ($1.60-$1.95), like the ones that look like baseballs, right down to the curved red stitching made with icing.
Unique to Duke are the “knock-offs.” Duke’s much bigger versions of Hostess cupcakes ($2.29) and moon pies.
Married 15 years, Ben and Amy are raising the fourth generation of bakery owners. Daughter Catherine, 12, likes to wait on customers in the Alton store.
“She’s not shy,” Ben said with a grin.
Four-year-old Grace is waiting in the wings.
“I haven’t started her on pie boxes yet,” Amy said. “Maybe at Christmas.”
Where: Bellemore Village Shopping Center, 3202 Nameoki Road, Granite City, and 819 Henry St., Alton.
Granite City location hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; to 1 p.m. Saturdays; and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays.
Alton location hours: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Information: Granite City, 618-877-9500; Alton, 618-462-2922.