Time Machine: Czech bakery preceded NewBo

Brick oven used for decades of pastries, breads

Gazette archives

After 55 years in the baking business, Vaclav Jakoubek gets ready to hang up the long wooden handle — called a “peel” — that he used to remove pans from his bakery’s brick oven. He owned and operated the South Side Bakery for 43 years at 1110 Third St. SE, the site now of the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.
Gazette archives After 55 years in the baking business, Vaclav Jakoubek gets ready to hang up the long wooden handle — called a “peel” — that he used to remove pans from his bakery’s brick oven. He owned and operated the South Side Bakery for 43 years at 1110 Third St. SE, the site now of the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.

At the turn of the 20th century, small, independent bakeries dotted Cedar Rapids.

One stood on what is now the wide grassy area in front of NewBo City Market.

Frank Cervenka opened the business, at 1110 Third St. SE, when he moved to Cedar Rapids from New York in 1891. It was a typical family-owned bakery. It had a shop in front, the bakery with a brick oven in back and living quarters on the second floor where the Cervenka family lived.

For a while in the early 1900s, Cervenka sold his products from a wagon that traversed neighborhoods as well as from the store.

Cervenkda hired Vaclav Jakoubek as an apprentice in the store in 1901, paying him $3 a week and providing him with meals. Jakoubek, who’d immigrated to the United States the year before, then got a job working for another experienced baker, Charles K. Kosek, on 16th Avenue SW before moving on to a shop in Traverse City, Mich.

Cervenka decided to sell his bakery in 1909. Kosek bought it and moved into the living quarters, while continuing to operate the successful bakery he had opened in 1902 on 16th Avenue SW.

When Jakoubek returned to Cedar Rapids in 1912, he was a master baker. He bought John Hubachek’s bakery at 128 F Ave. NW (near where the Best Western/Cooper’s Mill stood until recently). From there, he managed bakeries on Seventh Street SE and Mount Vernon Road SE.

JAKOUBEKS TAKE OVER

Perhaps Kosek found handling two bakeries overwhelming, or maybe he preferred to concentrate on his original store, but in 1913, he sold his Third Street bakery to Jakoubek.

Jakoubek moved his wife, the former Anna Kuta, two daughters and a son into the living quarters above the bakery and named the business the South Side Bakery. He stayed there 43 years.

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He and Anna belonged to many of the Czech organizations in Cedar Rapids, including Sokol, Jan Hus Oddfellow Lodge and ZCBJ.

The store’s brick oven produced tons of bread, rolls, coffee cakes and Czech pastries over the next decades. While Jakoubek tended to the baking, Anna helped in the front shop.

Jakoubek kneaded his dough by hand for rollicki (a type of horn roll), babovka (a ring cake, similar to a bundt) and kolaches. He hand-kneaded his specialty rye bread, but the rest of the dough was made in an automatic mixer.

Jakoubek put in six-day weeks with hardly any time off, working from 3 a.m., when he started warming the oven, until closing, when he headed to Ellis Park to swim in the pool.

In 1944, Jakoubek hired an assistant baker, Don Fleagle. After his wife died in 1952, Jakoubek was assisted at the bakery by his daughter, Albia Brown.

LAST DAY

When he decided to retire in 1956, Jakoubek’s bakery was the only one that still had a brick oven. He’d made a concession to modern baking methods when he converted the oven to gas in 1950.

Over his 55 years in the baking business, his customers included extended family members of his first customers.

On his last day of work, he baked an extra-large batch of bread, rolls and pastries for those customers, who had put in large orders of goods to freeze. Then he hung his long, wooden paddle, called a “peel,” on its rack for the final time.

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Jakoubek continued to live in the apartment above his business until the building was sold. He looked forward to a trip to Florida and swimming in the ocean instead of the pool. He was living with his daughter, Albia, when he died in 1972 at age 87.

NOW NEWBO MARKET

E&S Inc. electrical contractors, a business owned by Wayne Engle, moved into the Jakoubek building in 1962, sharing the street with Day Co., supplier of food service equipment for restaurants, schools, hospitals and churches. E&S moved out in 1968, and the Day Co. was sold in 1974.

In 1985, Mary, Shannon and Jamie Ashby started Quality Chef Foods Inc. on the property where the bakery and food service company once stood, expanding to cover the whole block in 1994.

After the site was destroyed in the 2008 flood, community members proposed the NewBo City Market for the space, presenting the plan to the Cedar Rapids City Council in June 2010.

The groundbreaking was held April 16, 2012, and the market opened in October.

Happily, a bakery still operates inside the NewBo City Market, not far from where the South Side Bakery stood. Tom Schmitt bakes bread and pastries by hand, much like Jakoubek, at Rustic Hearth Bakery, which specializes in sourdough breads.

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