Manbeck Bread Company was 50 Years Old in 1977
Courtesy of the Maryland Cracker Barrel magazine
Many of us remember passing by the Manbeck Bread Company and enjoying the smell of the baking bread. The company no longer exists but every time I pass by that building I fondly remember the tour my fourth grade class had of the operations there and the miniature loaf of bread we took home with us.
The Manbeck Bread Company baked the first bread in Hagerstown on January 17, 1927. An advertisement, appearing that same day in the local newspaper, announced the event, and invited Hagerstonians to an opening reception the following day. Music, dancing, refreshments, and a tour of the bakery were offered to guests. Fifty years later, the plant was still operating at peak capacity in the same location.
In order to expand operations, a partnership was formed in 1927 between the Manbeck and Beaver families to purchase the Caskey Bakery in Hagerstown. The plant, however, was not for sale.
Still believing that another bakery was needed in the area, and that it would prosper, the site on West Church Street was discovered to be available. The building was already on the site but had to be completely rebuilt to accommodate the necessary machinery. Only the exterior walls remained intact as renovation was undertaken.
When the bakery began operations, there was only one large room. Continual additions were made as business expanded, and by the end of the first year, thirty employees were working for the new firm.
Expansion continued throughout the years until the bakery encompassed 50,000 feet of floor space. The work force rose from the original 30 to 204.
During the first year the company averaged sales of $2,500.00 per week. In 1977 the company would gross $6 million.
In 1927 there were 10 routes carrying bread and sandwich rolls to nearby Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia towns. In 1977 there were 9 tractor trailers and 38 route trucks that transported more than 150 varieties of bread and pastry.
The firm became completely family owned when the Beaver family bought out the Manbeck branch of the firm in 1935, while retaining the Manbeck name.
The depression, which began with the stock market crash in October 1929, was a difficult period for the fledgling bakery. Although there was little capital, and supplies were limited, no money was borrowed, and all employees were retained.
The second World War also created major problems, though of a different kind. During the war years government controls, price freezes, shortages, and rationing made it exceedingly difficult to produce quality products to supply the expanding Hagerstown population. Thousands of people and military personnel moved into the tri-state area, creating an ever-increasing demand for bread. In Hagerstown alone, Fairchild Aircraft increased the number of its employees from 680 to 10,000, while other manufacturers also had maximum expansion. In spite of many difficulties, and because of diligent management, Manbeck was able to supply the community with a very necessary commodity.
At 50 years of age, the company was looking forward to continued growth planning to construct a new plant, with the most modern and automated equipment. Completion was expected in 1978.
Although the satisfying aroma of baking bread would emanate from a new location, it would still continue to inform Hagerstown citizens that the Manbeck Bread Company would continue to serve its customers faithfully. …as 50 fifty years.