Sweet Memories of Hough Bakery
By Gary Swilik
Clevelanders could once choose from hundreds of bakeries, large and small. Many remember the Laub, Kaase, Rosen and Davis baking companies. West Park also had many family-owned shops such as the Harsa, Herrmann, and Wilke bakeries. The mostly fondly remembered of all, however, is probably the Hough Baking Company.
Hough Bakery was founded by Lionel A. Pile a native of Barbados in the West Indies. His grandparents were from Scotland and his father was a sugar cane planter. Lionel came to Cleveland in 1902 and opened his first bakery a year later at 8708 Hough Avenue, the street which gave the company its name. In 1941, Hough established headquarters at 1519 Lakeview Avenue and distributed baked goods to branch stores throughout Greater Cleveland. By the mid 1960s Hough was operating an incredible 70 branches, including space leased in grocery and department stores.
“In fact, it’s hard to say for sure how many stores we had at any one time,” admits Carole Pile, of Euclid, Ohio, granddaughter of the company’s founder. “We also had many wholesale accounts and there were discussions about whether or not to include these in the total.”
Hough’s wonderful baked goods still inspire tasty memories: Pecan Rolls; Orange Chiffon Ring Cake; flaky yeast-raised strudel filled with nuts or sweet poppy seeds; Butter Ring with raisins and sliced almonds; Hot Cross Buns from an old English recipe, delicately spiced and topped with sugar; rich Penouche Layer Cake covered in boiled icing and candy topping; raisin bread full of plump raisins with swirls of sweet cinnamon; Bonnet Cake, a tender white butter cake with pink icing sold especially for Mother’s Day; and Daffodil Cake, moist angel food frosted with butter-cream icing with bits of grated lemon and crushed pineapple, available only at Easter. Some had their favorites and some just liked everything.
Many feel a personal connection with Hough Bakeries. “My grandmother worked at Hough in the 60s,” says Kris Simecek of Avon Lake. “She would bring home the broken sugar cookies – green trees, red bells and blue stars – they sold at Christmas. Now I bake blue star cookies at Christmas as a remembrance.”
Hough store #28 opened in 1951 at Fairwood Shopping Center at West 136th and Lorain. Like most branches, it had a pleasant homelike interior with crisp white curtains, wood-framed glass display cases, Early American wallpaper, subdued lighting cast by brass chandeliers, and a few graceful wood benches along the wall opposite the counter. West Parkers, past and present, reminisce about Hough Bakery at Fairwood.
“The aroma is what I remember,” says Lynn Wolf Dulcie. “The warm, sweet smell of butter and vanilla from the cookies and the baked bread. It was sinful and drew you in like a spell! The white boxes tied up with string, with something wonderful inside.” Philip J. Germani agrees. “Oh the smells from that place,” says Phil. “Their fresh bread was to die for!”
“Hough Bakery was a tradition in our family,” remembers Carol Henninger. “Especially their coconut yellow cake. When we celebrated my Mom’s birthday, Dad would always claim he baked it himself.”
Sandy Benning tells us how she used to drop her girls off at St. Vincent’s school and then stop by Hough to grab a goodie to go with her coffee. And Sandi Lilly recalls her Dad “used to bring home hot rolls and pastries from Hough on Saturday morning. I loved the almond-butter loaf and the still-hot poppy seed horns. I hate that Hough Bakery is not there,” exclaims Sandi.
“I used to go to Hough at West 136th every Thursday morning with my mom,” says Bill Norton, “to pick up a dozen glazed doughnuts for our family. I think the only remodeling they ever did was to tile over the original polished wood floor.”
Others remember Hough store #47 which opened in Puritas Plaza at West 150th in the mid 1950s. “That was our bakery,” says Diane Ledonne. “My Mom used to go there several times a week. Hough was very important in our lives.” Susan Piribek Kotris insists her husband grew up on bakery from Hough at Puritas Plaza. “His favorites were the Christmas cookies,” she says.
Hough Bakeries remained a family-owned company almost to the end. Some feel the firm’s downfall was a failure to modernize, preventing Hough from matching the cheaper prices of competitors. In any case, the Pile family sold the ailing enterprise to AmeriFoods in October 1990. The new owner hoped to distribute Hough products nationally but financing fell through and all remaining branches closed forever on August 8th, 1992. Over two decades later Hough Bakery is still missed by legions of loyal customers