The holidays are all about tradition, and while some prefer to whip up old-time family recipes at home, hundreds turn to local neighborhood bakeries to supply their favorite treats.

For the bakeries, often with limited staff, it adds up to crushing work hours at this time of year to ensure that they meet all the specialty orders that come pouring in during the holiday rush.

“The holidays are one of our busiest times of the year and demand is very high, especially on Christmas Eve,” said Orianna Downs, retail manager at the locally owned Frosty’s Donuts chain.

Frosty’s has locations in Freeport, Brunswick, Bath and Gardiner and while it’s most well known for its hand-cut doughnuts, customers also gobble up other baked goods like apple fritters, cinnamon buns and twists.

In addition to its own retail bakeries, Frosty’s also provides wholesale baked goods to a variety of stores throughout southern Maine.

Downs said the company’s bakers now work in a commercial kitchen at the former naval air base in Brunswick.

“We have a very well trained and efficient team of both bakers and front-of-the-house staff,” which helps the bakery keep up at this time of year.

The original Frosty’s opened on Maine Street in Brunswick in 1965. The bakery was initially owned and operated by Bob and June Frost, but since 2012 the principal owners have included husband and wife team Nels Omdal and Shelby St. Andre.

And, while doughnuts, particularly custard or jelly-filled bismarcks, are still one of the bakery’s main draws, Downs said, “our twists are (really) our most popular item any time of the year.”

In South Portland, Mainly Grains Bakers, located on Broadway, Carlos Garcia is the lone baker and makes every item himself, working 14- to 16-hour nights, six days a week.

“The demand is crazy at the holidays,” said Garcia’s wife, Deb.

“Luckily, we have our 19-year-old son, Nick, who is a tremendous help. He does all the cleaning at the bakery, and he is learning pastry from his dad. We simply couldn’t operate the bakery without him.”

She said the most popular items during the holidays are “our dinner rolls. We sell four different types, in packages of six or 12 at Christmas. Our Danish pastries, fruit turnovers and Italian and Portuguese breads are also very popular.”

The Garcias opened Mainly Grains in the late fall of 2013. Deb Garcia said the business was her husband’s lifelong dream.

“He emigrated from Portugal to the United States at the age of 6 with his parents,” she said. “And his father, grandfather and uncle were all bakers.”

Garcia said her husband’s family eventually settled in Bridgeport, Conn., where his father opened a bakery called Berkshire Bakers.

“That’s where Carlos learned the fine craft of baking,” she said.

Garcia said Mainly Grains is different from other local bakers because it focuses on providing “my husband’s specialty – authentic Portuguese rolls and bread, which aren’t found anywhere else in Maine.”

In addition to the Portuguese breads, Garcia said, Mainly Grains produces other European-type and whole grain artisanal breads, along with cookies, muffins and pastries, which are all hand made from scratch daily.

Like other local bakeries, Garcia said Mainly Grains depends on a “very small staff,” which she called both “capable and wonderful.”

She said, “We employ four counter clerks, three of whom live in South Portland. They do everything from serving customers, to cleaning, to receiving and fulfilling orders. They take on extra hours during the holidays, and they work very hard to keep things running smoothly.”

Garcia added, “Carlos puts his heart and soul into everything he bakes. Baking is his true passion and calling in life. It’s a family tradition, which he hopes to pass down to our son.”

At the relatively new Bomb Diggity bakery in Windham, owner Dennis Strout said specialty orders flood in at this time of year, particularly for Christmas cookies, as well as pies.

To help meet the demand at the holidays, Strout said, “Everybody pitches in and helps each other. We have an outstanding team at the Bomb Diggity.”

In addition to the bakery, Bomb Diggity also features a cafe? that offers a lunch menu on weekdays and a brunch menu on weekends. Prior to moving to Windham in early winter of 2015, Strout said, the company operated a wholesale bakery in Portland for five years.

“We offer traditional, gluten-free and occasionally vegan options (and) also source local ingredients wherever possible,” he said this week. “Our whole wheat is grown organically in Aroostook County and milled in Skowhegan at Maine Grains. Our coffee is from a Portland-based roastery.”

Overall, Strout said, “Our bakery and cafe is about our community, fantastic food and offering a small, quaint environment.”

Cashier Aimee Thiboutot hands the goods to Curtis Lambert of Colorado, who happily purchased a bismarck, an apple fritter and a cinnamon bun last Friday at Frosty’s Donuts in Freeport.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.