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Goll’s Bakery in Havre de Grace celebrates 90th anniversary

Goll’s Bakery in Havre de Grace celebrated its 90th anniversary last week with a virtual ceremony — a sign of the times — and hopes for at least 10 more years in business.

The bakery was originally opened by Eugene and Elsa Goll, who emigrated from Stuttgart, Germany. The two met in Philadelphia and were married on Dec. 1, 1930; they purchased the shop in Havre de Grace on their honeymoon weekend.

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Generations later, the shop’s namesake still operates the bakery, passing from Bobby Goll Sr., son of Eugene and Elsa, to his daughter Susie Goll.

Bobby remembers occasions where he spent 14 hours a day in the bakery over the course of his 70-year career tending the shop. At 85, though, he decided in June to pass the business’ operations, though he still does some work at the store every now and again.

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The small shop on North Washington Street has endured through changes in the town, and though other businesses have come and gone, the most keenly felt change for the bakery, Susie said, is the fact that her father will not be there as he has been for decades.

“That has been the best part of it, being able to work next to my dad for all these years,” she said.

Typically, a day at the shop starts early, Susie explained. She rises at 2:30 a.m. to fire up a temperamental oven and start making doughnuts. Preparing the day’s stock sometimes takes 11 or 12 hours, and she catches some sleep midday. She is in bed by 10 p.m., and the routine begins again. The process is roughly the same every day— enough to drive someone mad, she says with a laugh.

“I was always drawn back to the bakery,” she said. “It was just not a choice, like it was just going to happen.”

The shop does not use preservatives in its products, and all the recipes her grandfather brought over from Germany have remained unchanged, Susie said. For that reason, some products do not keep and have to be sold the same day. True to form, much of the bakery’s equipment is also antique, with machines from the 1940s and a cookie stamp that is over 100 years old, she said.

Though COVID-19 has hindered the bakery’s sales, changes to the town have impacted it more, Susie explained.

The bakery has always been a corollary business — a place locals and tourists stop to grab a bite to eat while running errands or on their way to a destination. With the disappearance of other businesses downtown generating foot-traffic, like banks and drug stores, Susie said, business has slowed. She is lucky to have few expenses; baking is not a lucrative venture.

“I definitely do not do this to get rich,” she said. “I do it for the love, and I’ll keep doing it; I love the customers. I love seeing the next generation come in.”

Despite the pandemic, Bobby said, customers still come to the shop, leaving memories of multiple generations who pass through the doors.

“I saw a fellow come in on Saturday morning, every Saturday morning, holding a little baby,” Bobby recalled. “And then, 19 years later, I saw him come in with his son walking beside him.”

The generational shift is also taking place in the bakery, where Susie will have to adjust to working without her father’s experience. She has always lived and worked in the shop — it is all she knows, she said — and her father’s absence is a huge change.

Though Bobby stepped back from the business and left Susie to operate it in June, she is not the only Goll working there. Her son and stepdaughter work in the bakery, but not doing any of the baking. She does not know if they have any interest in taking over the business after she retires, but only the future will tell, she said. Instead, she is simply focused on the next 10 years.

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“I am going to make it to 100 and see what happens,” she said.

At the virtual celebration, the bakery was given a proclamation from the Harford County Council, and the City of Havre de Grace will also issued a proclamation in the bakery’s honor at its Monday meeting of the city council.

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