Archie Garner’s connection to Hough Bakery is almost physical.
Garner, who started working at Hough after high school in the mid-’60s, talks like his story and Hough’s are one in the same. Maybe that’s because since the iconic bakery closed in 1992, Garner has been the unofficial keeper of its legacy. A bakery that once boasted more than 70 locations now exists only in a small Collinwood storefront as Archie’s Lakeshore Bakery. It’s the only place you can find Hough’s famous white cake, butter cookies, coconut bars, daffodil cakes and Hungarian delights.
“These are my babies,” Garner says with a chuckle.
It hasn’t been easy. As an African-American, Garner started in Hough’s sanitation department and only became a baker after filing a grievance with the union. Then he had to trick the other bakers into sharing their secrets. “They really didn’t teach anybody anything,” he recalls. But Garner knew how to charm them. “I love to laugh, and they loved to be laughed at when they tell jokes, so we were a perfect fit.”
These days, Garner still makes everything from scratch — no powdered eggs, only the best flour and sugar. “It’s still the Hough recipe, just with the Archie touch,” he says.
Take the Hungarian delights, made with raspberry and fudge filling between two butter cookies. Garner’s dedication to the original fudge recipe, which doesn’t include any binding agents, means they’re only available during the colder months.
“[Scratch] bakers these days are really rare,” he says. So it’s especially gratifying to feature some of Northeast Ohio’s best bakeries in this issue. Yet, many of those seem to be threatened as well. A few bakeries asked not to be included in our list, because they didn’t have the help or energy to take on more business.
Garner’s shop is in trouble too. His rent doubled in June, and he’s not sure how long he can survive. While he’s looking for new digs, it’s a struggle. Most of his customers live in the burbs, where rents are steep and the cost to replace his equipment is prohibitive.
Yet, even at 70, Garner has no intentions of stopping, even if he loses the shop. “If I turned my basement into a bakery and just catered to whoever I could, I would not stop baking,” he says. “I couldn’t stop doing this. I won’t stop doing it.”
Hough is a part of him, just like it is for so many Clevelanders.
“I have people come into the shop and cry because they remember their grandmother taking them downtown to a Hough store or going into a Hough store in the suburbs. Those memories just never leave you — and neither does that taste,” he says. “Hough is a bloodline, and we share the same thing.”