The Sweet Life, Sugar-Free, a photo essay.
Holtermann’s Bakery in Staten Island has been through many challenges over its 132 years of operations, including two World Wars, the invention of cars and the Great Depression. It has revamped its business model numerous times to keep up with the times, changing from selling house-to-house, wholesale and now retail. But it is the slow and steady rise of commodity prices like wheat, flour, corn and especially sugar that threatens the bakery the most.
“All of them, all the materials we need to keep operating are getting more expensive, but we can only raise our prices very gradually or we’d lose our customers,” said Clifford “Cliff” Holtermann, 84, who took on the responsibility of keeping the business going from his father, founder Claus Holtermann.
“I remember watching my father mixing the cement to build this building,” said Cliff. “He worked so hard to build this bakery. I respect that, the hard work, so that’s why I want to keep it going.”
In the beginning, the bakery delivered their customers’ daily bread right to their front door, but rising gas prices prompted them to move to wholesale. As a wholesale company, they sold to large bakeries in other boroughs in bulk but for thin profit margins.
“We were collecting pennies not dollars. We were working our hardest then but earning little,” said Cliff. After his brother retired, he moved the bakery into retail, the way it has remained until now.
“At least we can take in more cost this way and we don’t have to break our back just to keep the business running,” he said. “We’re earning enough and we’re still keeping it going. That’s all I want to do: to keep this bakery going.”