Going to Fritzsche’s meant picking up rolls for sandwiches, cake for an occasion, and a cookie for the road. It was THE bakery in Sayville and, during my childhood, the only real bakery for miles around. Fritzsche’s was located on Main Street, Sayville. The storefront windows were decorated with seasonal cakes and pastries to lure passers-by.
Everything in the bakery case looked incredibly delicious. Fritzsche’s pastries and cookies were not overly sweet to make your fillings buzz. Every treat was just sweet enough to bring a smile to the sourest disposition. The crusty breads and rolls could not be matched. The salt sticks, a long roll covered in caraway seeds and sea salt, were a favorite walk-about-town snack.
I did not know Kurt Fritzsche. I did know that he and his family’s bakery was a mainstay in Sayville. Mr. Fritzsche baked on the premises and worked long days, every day. I believe he ran a tight ship. He had rules that had to be minded and that included the customers. Somehow, my Uncle Jack was exempt.
On Sunday mornings, there was always a line out the door. Rolls, crullers, crumb cakes came out of display cases and into white bakery bags and boxes tied with red and white bakery string (remember collecting bakery string to play cat’s cradle?). Uncle Jack would park in front of the bakery, lock his car door and walk past the waiting customers. Uncle Jack was not a friendly or cordial sort. He was on a mission every Sunday morning and did not have the patience to follow common courtesies.
Uncle Jack was not an imposing man. In fact, he was quite short and wore a long black trench coat and black fedora. The only thing he had going for him was that he was an old man on a mission. Never to wear a smile or nod a greeting, Uncle Jack walked to the front of the line. The lady or young girl behind the counter recognized him and immediately put a crumb cake in a box and six plain rolls in a bag.
“Good morning, Mr. Cascioppo,”
Never to acknowledge, he simply took his box and bag and left the exact amount on the counter—no tip. Mission accomplished.
Mr. Fritzsche passed away last week leaving behind a legacy in my little town. He and his family’s bakery will be missed.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.