(Editor’s Note: For more information on the annual Food Quality & Safety Award, click HERE.)
If your travels take you by 1100 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks, Pa., prepare to be overcome by the tantalizing aroma of fresh baked cinnamon swirl bread emanating from the building.
This particular address in this historic borough just north of Pittsburgh is home to 5 Generation Bakers, LLC (5GB), a company that bills itself as “the premier manufacturer of gourmet cinnamon swirl breads in the country.”
5GB makes six varieties of swirl bread, including the classic cinnamon, plus those named for their additional ingredient: raisin, apple, cranberry, pumpkin, and chocolate chip—all sporting the Jenny Lee label. The Jenny Lee savory line includes Parmesan Garlic and Herb, Italian Olive Focaccia, and California Tomato Basil.
A total of 10,000 to 15,000 loaves are baked per workday (depending on client demand), 24/5, on two production lines, during two shifts. So how could 5GB’s neighborhood not smell like heaven?
“Welcome to your new obsession,” 5GB proclaims enthusiastically.
Not surprisingly, consumers’ obsession with Jenny Lee breads is directly related to 5GB’s obsession with food quality and safety. So fervent is the company’s devotion to these two outcomes, 5GB’s efforts have been rewarded with a 2017 Food Quality & Safety Award, offered in a new category created this year to recognize small enterprises.
Not bad for a family-owned and operated company just 7 years old.
However, 5GB has roots going back to 1938, when cousins Paul Baker and Bernard McDonald founded Jenny Lee Bakery in McKees Rocks. Paul Baker’s paternal uncle, Frank, chose the name, inspired by a 1930 song titled “Sweet Jenny Lee.”
At its peak in the 1970s, the thriving business had 14 retail locations in the Pittsburgh area, along with its 25,000-square-foot headquarters. Among its repertoire of some 200 to 300 different products, including sweet breads, donuts, pastries, cookies, pies, and cakes, the company’s most popular product by far was its cinnamon swirl bread.
A catastrophic Thanksgiving Day fire in 2006 that nearly wiped out the second-floor offices and candy production area ultimately led to Jenny Lee Bakery closing its doors on Aug. 16, 2008.
Inspired to continue his family’s legacy, Scott Baker, Paul Baker’s grandson, brought the family business back to life in 2010. As an homage to his German immigrant ancestors and their professional baking tradition that dates to 1875 in the U.S., Scott named the revival enterprise 5 Generation Bakers.
As company president, he purchased and renovated a 20,000-square-foot grocery store, which serves as the 5GB manufacturing facility and also features about 600 square feet of retail grocery space.
5GB now specializes in its signature cinnamon swirl bread, which is sold frozen and wholesale, currently available at 4,000 stores in 20 states, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and even Japan.
“Five generations of the Baker family have contributed to the quality standards and recipes for success that we enjoy today,” Scott Baker relates. “Our passion to create only the finest products available has grown into a business that strives to be ahead of the curve when it comes to both a quality and safe food experience for our customers.”
Food safety has been the driving force 5GB has embraced to ensure success in “building a better bakery,” Baker emphasizes.
“We continually strive to blend excellence with cutting-edge technology and prevailing knowledge,” he says. “This mindset makes it possible for us to build a team superior in skills, talent, and confidence in order to grow the Jenny Lee brand while producing the highest quality product. Our management team supports this vision and has created a tenacious food safety culture that our 45 employees embrace.”