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San Andreas Bakers Close Up Shop

The ovens are growing cold and the mixer sits idle as a San Andreas institution must close its doors.

Giuffra´s Country Bakery will serve the last fresh-baked breads and rolls, and the final cakes and pastries Saturday as Frank and Mary Jane Giuffra said they have to call it quits.

“I feel like I´m losing a family member,” Mary Jane said Wednesday.

The couple got involved in the baking business in the early ´80s and then assumed control of the popular morning hangout in 1985. But their bakery wasn´t the first in the county seat.

“There was a bakery in town when I moved here with my family when I was 5 years old,” Mary Jane said. Mary Jane´s sister, Shirley Paulk, worked in the business that was in the building where Don Ball´s jewelry store was housed for decades. “She decorated all the cakes.”

Mary Jane says there were a few other bakeries that made a go of it in town, but after many years without fresh doughnuts and pies and cakes, the Giuffra´s wanted to begin baking for the community.

Frank´s brother, Jack, had baking experience from his military service and had worked in one of the other shops in town. He, Frank and a partner, the late Ron Airola, joined forces and opened the shop.

“ack taught me what to do,” Frank said, “but before too long he had to leave because we couldn´t pay him enough.”

So Frank assumed the baker´s duties n which meant getting to the St. Charles Street shop at midnight to prepare the next day´s fare.

Bread had to be started and the dough for the doughnuts n made from scratch every day n had to be risen once, then cut and rolled into shape before rising again.

“They take a lot of time to make,” Frank said. “Now, some bakeries buy them frozen, already cooked, and they throw them in the oven and then glaze them. They´re not bad, but they´re not too good.”

Making those doughnuts cost Frank more than time just two weeks after he and Mary Jane took over the operation. Early one morning, he passed out while he was frying a batch o the sinkers and his right arm slipped into the hot oil.

He was in the burn unit at Dameron Hospital in Stockton for more than a month and then faced almost a year of physical therapy to regain the use of his arm.

Over the years, the bakery served schoolchildren a morning pick-me-up as they walked to school and dolled out dozens of cookies, pastries and those fresh doughnuts to office workers throughout the town. County road crews and Caltrans workers could also be spied in the wee hours stocking up on treats before setting to work.

Julie Miller, who stopped into the shop Wednesday for a few dunkers, was saddened to hear about the closing. “Where are we going to get these goodies?” Miller asked. “These keep us going.”

Mary Jane said sheand Frank thought long and hard about shutting the doors before the potentially lucrative holiday season. The couple typically prepared more than 200 pumpkin pies and hundreds of dozens of fresh-baked dinner rolls for Thanksgiving alone. And that doesn´t count the cookies, cakes and other fruit pies that were ordered.

“We would have to purchase all the supplies ahead of time and then hope people would order enough to use up the stock,” Mary Jane said. “It just didn´t make good business sense to try to keep holding on.”

“I hate to see that bakery close,” said Tom Taylor, a former District 2 supervisor who served on the board as Mary Jane was the board clerk. She retired from the county in March of this year after more than 30 years of service.

“I have a sweet tooth,” Taylor added, “and she used to make the best white cake with a chocolate doughnut frosting that I loved. She kept bringing them to me and I finally ate so many that I got tired of them.”

The Giuffras have quietly had the business up for sale for months, but have had no takers come forward. “We would much rather sell it to someone who wanted to make a go of it,” Mary Jane said. “Frank would even train someone.”

Frank added that increasing costs such as workman´s compensation insurance and skyrocketing energy bills have contributed to the doughnut decline. “Our wholesale customers say they´ll miss us too,” Frank said. “They don´t know where they´ll get their rolls for sandwiches.”

The shop was open today for one last morning of coffee and doughnuts.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Mike Taylor. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com