Historic bakery slowly rises back into business

ABERDEEN – Edward Haynes took his daughter, Tanganika, on a walk way down memory lane one recent Saturday. Retracing the steps from Clay Street where Edward and three friends once made Saturdays out of dodging dogs and catching iconic Hollywood films at the Elkin, that walk through town with his daughter proved a trip that was a long time coming.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL Mary Gyllenswan holds a photo of what the Kimmel Bakery building looked like before she and her husband, Tom, right, renovated the space partly with the encouragement of Dwight Stevens, left.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL
Mary Gyllenswan holds a photo of what the Kimmel Bakery building looked like before she and her husband, Tom, right, renovated the space partly with the encouragement of Dwight Stevens, left.

“After we’d spend a day doing all that, we would make our way to Kimmel Bakery and yes, the candy is just like I remembered it. I opened the door looking for the glass case to my left, which is now to the right. You would wait your turn then, but it was worth it,” Haynes said.
The wait has been worth it for several people who strived to recapture for the taste of sweets that stretched the better part of a decade from that downtown location.
Talk began last year of a couple interested in recapturing Kimmel Bakery’s original allure, which finally came into fruition when Aberdeen transplants, Tom and Mary Gyllenswan, had their soft opening of Kimmel Bakery in January.
The Gyllenswans were married 35 years ago in Sulligent, Ala., before moving back to Illinois, but the charm of the twin states stuck with them throughout those years.
After numerous visits with friends who’ve lived in Aberdeen for 30 years, the couple finally decided to relocate here from California.
The couple had the intentions of opening a bakery to follow suit with Mary’s love of making and decorating cakes at home. The desire of finding a small space to open a bakery expanded after following up with Save Aberdeen Landmarks chairman Dwight Stevens.
“Our first goal was to have a place to enjoy retirement and bake cakes, but we wound up wanting to be a part of bringing old time Aberdeen back. I like the feeling of walking down the streets and having that feel,” Tom said.
After SAL’s tireless efforts in restoring the Kimmel Building yielded Reflections Salon and three upstairs apartments, the only hole missing was breathing new life into the empty parcel that once housed Kimmel Bakery.
“I told them how I’d really love to see it as a shrine to the Kimmel family since they were here for so long. In our renovation, we didn’t touch this side of the building since we were waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Within five minutes of talking with the Gyllenswans, we all agreed it was something to work on,” Stevens said.
Tom admitted he was reluctant at first, but caved into the extensive renovation project after words of encouragement and a commitment to work from his preacher, Ricky Bowen, who doubled as an engineer and a contractor on the project.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL The Gyllenswans stand in front of the counter at Kimmel Bakery.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL
The Gyllenswans stand in front of the counter at Kimmel Bakery.

The renovation began with a mess in August that cleaned up to be a blank canvas that wound up an homage to the original Kimmel Bakery by the time it first opened its doors in mid-January.
Kimmel Bakery has bit and pieces of the past that Stevens had saved thinking it would be a good fit if someone ever reopend the bakery. The Gyllenswans plan on hanging pictures of the Kimmel brothers on the walls as well.
“We grew up when bakeries were in full swing before big stores really came into play. Bakeries are really coming back now though,” Mary said.
Mary’s recipes carry a Swedish/Norwegian influence from her mother and grandmother. The lineage of the Kimmel family goes back to bakers in 1500’s Germany.
The similarities of backgrounds are as striking as the selection of treats. The Gyllenswans offer baked goods and candy, but plan on offering dipped ice cream and waffle cones, sundaes, sandwiches and a variety of breads, along with retail kitchen merchandise and t-shirts eventually.
“We’ve been able to meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends while learning the history. I don’t know how to describe that feeling,” Tom said.
Kimmel Bakery anticipates its grand opening in April closer to the Pilgrimage.

About Ray Van Dusen

I've been with the Monroe Journal since Aug. 2009 as a staff writer, but took the role as news editor in late 2012. I'm always looking for interesting story ideas from around Monroe County. You can reach me via email at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.

  • David Ballard

    Just hearing the words ‘Kimmel Bakery’ sure rings a nostalgic bell going back to the high school years of the mid 60’s. I can almost taste the sweet rolls hot out of the oven. Don’t remember the little guy who worked there but he was part of the atmosphere. Always cheerful and active as a beaver. Elkin theater on the weekends and a trip to Prentiss Nelson’s barbershop every two weeks. 50 years ago. Gosh, where has the time gone?

  • Carolyn Thompson-Carter

    OH MY GOSH!! I was born and raised in Aberdeen; now live in Mabank TX and just the thought that Kimmel Bakery opeing again makes me want to pack up the car and make a trip home. I can just see those rows of “Kimmel Candy” in the front window; I do so hope it is brought back. So many many wonderful memories of the bakery and Saturdays at Elkins; they go hand in hand. I do pray that Aberdeen continues to be “brought back”!!