George Adam Simon, an old-fashioned Baltimore baker who offered generations of his signature peach cakes and wafer-thin sugar cookies, died of heart failure Tuesday at Gilchrist Towson Center. He was 90.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, he was the son of Adam Simon, also a baker, and his wife Nettie. He left school after completing the eighth grade to pursue the family trade.
Mr. Simon met his future wife, Kathleen “Kathy” Mowary, through his father’s older sister.
He gave up tending his Cockeysville-Cranbrook Road ovens this past February.
“He had stopped driving and my brother Matt would bring him in to the bakery. My father still made the strawberry and jelly roll cakes,” said his daughter, Eileen Gotcher, who operates the family-owned business with her brother.
Mr. Simon’s ancestors began baking in the 1880s in South Baltimore. Their seasonal specialty was a sheet of raised dough about 1 or 2 inches tall lined with fresh peaches, baked and dusted with powdered sugar. It was a big seller during July, August and early September.
George A. Simon started commercial baking in 1947 near his birthplace at Pratt and Payson streets, then baked at Hartman’s at Park Heights Avenue and Cold Spring Lane. He had his own shop at Loch Raven and Taylor Avenue for many years and opened at the Cranbrook Shopping Center in 1977, according to a 2014 Baltimore Sun story.
“His peach cake attracts a loyal but quiet following at Simon’s Bakery. They are a battery of neighborhood people who savor the way this basic Baltimore dessert tastes,” said the 2014 story. “There are other peach cakes sold in Baltimore in August, and their devotees defend their favorites against the competition.”
He sold his peach cake in rectangular pieces he called “slabs.” He made it of freshly cut peach halves on a raised dough.
“The rest is August magic. It’s hard to tell whether this is breakfast, lunch or dinner fare. Most people just eat them when they arrive home from the bakery,” said The Sun’s 2014 story.
Mr. Simon left his Cockeysville ovens and drove to Maple Lawn Farms in New Park, Pennsylvania, for the peaches that made up his revered summertime sweet treat for many years.
“I took over that drive for my father some years ago,” said his daughter, Eileen.
A Timonium customer, James Genthner, recalled having friends tell him the bakery did good business for many, many years.
“Mr. Simon was a quiet fellow,” Mr. Genthner said. " I usually saw him working in the back of the store and emerging from time to time.
“Usually there were young ladies who waited on customers. Mr. Simon usually had a display in this front window. The display usually featured electric trains. On several occasions when I stopped in and the trains were stationary, I asked him to run them for me and he obliged.
“One summer, he had a Battle of the Alamo display complete with uniformed Mexican soldiers attacking the defenders of the Alamo. I understand that the Alamo display was rather popular with his customers,” Mr. Genthner said.
The Morning Sun
He also said: “Running a bakery is hard work, but he continued to work up until a short time before his death. I think that the work kept him motivated and extended his life.”
Mr. Simon said in 2014 that he learned to make the peach cake from several generations of the extended Simon family, who operated out of a bakery at Hanover and Barney streets in South Baltimore.
Mr. Simon’s peach cake was voted No. 1 by a Baltimore Sun panel in 2011.
He was a second cousin to another Baltimore baking dynasty, the Otterbein family, who make the thin cookies sold at grocery stores. Mr. Simon made his version of the thin, hand-cut sugar cookie, which because they are made 12 months of the year, outsold the peach cakes.
“An optimistic and happy personality, he never brags about the cakes, cookies and other desserts he begins making six days a week at 4 a.m.,” said the 2014 Sun story.
Survivors include his daughter, Eileen Gotcher of Delta, Pennsylvania; two sons, Jack Simon of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, and Matthew Simon of northern Baltimore County; two sisters, Mildred Fiske of Baltimore County and Marie Popp of Rosedale; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife of 56 years, Kathleen “Kathy” Mowary died in 2019.
Services are private.