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Family-owned Indianapolis bakery marks 100 years

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 12:01 am

INDIANAPOLIS –There's a quote by Benjamin Franklin that hangs over Matt Allen's desk in the back office of Taylor's Bakery.

It reads: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Allen and his brother, Drew, say the quote has become the unofficial motto of their four-generation family business – and helped the Indianapolis bakery reach its 100th year.

The good deeds are many, from replacing cakes that customers accidentally smash to making daily donations of unsold baked goods.

But customers say the bakery's treats also account for its longevity, from its well-known white cake that was served to President Dwight Eisenhower to the popular orange cake that was an accidental discovery.

Bif Ward, a longtime Indianapolis Realtor, has been coming to Taylor's since 1968.

“This is the greatest place in the world!” she proclaims. “I go to places all the time, and when I show up they expect me to bring Taylor's baked goods. Especially doughnut holes.”

Customers also rave about the sheet cakes, which they say draw oohs and ahhs when they are unveiled.

“We are not making widgets,” Drew Allen, a great-grandson of the founder, said. “We are making 100 percent scratch, custom products.”

Drew, 35, and his brother, Matt, 33, have literally grown up in the business, helping out in the bakery as youngsters. So did their father, John D. Allen, who after 44 years of running the place recently decided to officially pass on the mixing spoon to his sons.

At age 69, John became the bakery's historian. And why not? His childhood was full of memorable experiences most boys would love.

“I used to illegally drive when I was 14, delivering groceries to 50 to 60 homes in and around our neighborhood,” John remembers with a laugh.

When it opened in February 1913, at 38th and Illinois streets, Taylor's was a neighborhood grocery. The family moved the store to 6216 Allisonville Road in 1968 and added a Fishers location in 2003. Now they have 35 full-time and 14 part-time employees.

The business was started by D.O. Taylor. And in those days, live chickens were on the premises to ensure that customers got fresh eggs. The baked goods (limited to biscuits, bread and cookies) were then more of a sideline. In the 1930s that the much-loved white cake emerged.

Some popular Taylor baked goods have been discovered by accident. The story behind the Orange Fluff iced angel food cake dates to the 1940s, when a staff baker working on white angel food cakes took a snort of pure vanilla extract, which contained a fair amount of alcohol. When the tipsy baker realized there was no vanilla extract left to finish the mix, he added orange flavor instead, turning the cakes orange.