Their story reads like a modern-day bootstrapping success story. A Tennessee couple relocated to Fort Worth with their four young children in tow, started a successful business selling popcorn at the corner of 7th and Main streets downtown, and shortly after opened a restaurant.
The father became ill, leaving his wife to care for their family, which by now had grown to eight children. His wife was confident that one of her most popular skills, that of baking, would save them. She had already built a following with her baked goods that she delivered to neighbors as gifts, and many of them begged her to start selling her delicious cakes, pies and breads.
So, like any other person with her back against the wall, she bet on herself.
She sold their popular eatery and started her own business baking fresh bread that would eventually garner the attention of the entire state.
The woman was Mrs. Ninia “Ninnie” Baird, and this is the story of the iconic Fort Worth-born bread company, Mrs Baird’s Bread.
It was 1908 when Ninnie started Mrs Baird’s Baking Co. along with their eight children – Bess, Dewey, Hoyt, Roland, Lorine, C.B., Marjorie, and Ruth. The boys helped bake and deliver by bicycle, and the girls took care of chores and the smaller children.
William, her husband, died in 1911 and by then Ninnie was turning a profit with her home-based business. In 1915 she struck a deal with a local hotel, Metropolitan, to purchase their commercial size oven for $75. As part of their agreement, she paid them $25 cash and the rest in bread and other baked goods – until the balance was paid in full.
The once tiny family-operated business flourished and despite competition from local bakeries Mrs Baird’s thrived. She was quoted in one Dallas Morning News article, saying that everyone in Fort Worth was jealous of her baking skills. Regardless if she was arrogant, her instincts were right.
Mrs Baird’s plant in Dallas was reported to be the largest producing baked goods in the entire South. The company’s marketing campaigns were expansive and sprawling in comparison to other ads of the day. Sometimes the marketing department took a more aggressive approach, by asking grocers to only carry their brand or limit the amount of other brands they carried.
At a time when it went against social norms, Ninnie not only found a way to run her corporation and care for her family, but she was also a progressive figure who made business decisions that proved profitable.
And though she was a staunch businesswoman to some, her desire to help her community cannot be denied – and that support continues today. For example, throughout the month of June, Mrs. Baird’s will be donating 90,000 loaves of bread to local food banks in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, South Texas, Tarrant County and West Texas.
Today Mrs Baird’s website boasts over 40 products ranging from breads to cinnamon rolls to donuts,and their outlet store is still located in Fort Worth at 7301 South Freeway (Interstate 35W.) Check out its website for recipes, more news about the bakery and a blog that’s filled with details about their newest offerings.
Mrs Baird’s decadently rich Hot Chocolate French Toast
- 12 slices Mrs Baird’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1½ cups milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Whipped cream, for serving
- ½ cup chilled Chocolate Maple Ganache (recipe follows)
- Chocolate Maple Ganache Ingredients:
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 6 ounces heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- Make the Chocolate Maple Ganache. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, then pour it over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Add the maple syrup and whisk gently until smooth. Transfer ½ cup of ganache to a small bowl, and refrigerate for 10 minutes or until slightly chilled but still spreadable. Cover the remaining ganache and reserve in a warm place.
- Make the French toast. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with non-stick spray. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in the milk, cream, vanilla and almond extracts until combined. Arrange 6 slices of bread in the baking dish. Spread chilled ganache on each bread slice, then top with remaining 6 bread slices. Pour custard mixture over the bread. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until bread is toasted. When baked, pour remaining warm ganache over the casserole. Serve with whipped cream.
Deah Mitchell writes about more than food. You can email her at email@example.com.