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The History of Collin Street Bakery

Historic Photo of A Baker at The Collin Street Bakery
January 5, 2021

The History of Collin Street Bakery

Once Upon A Time In The Lone Star State

Well, howdy there! Welcome to the Collin Street Bakery, home of the world-famous DeLuxe® Fruitcake. Now, for those of you who don’t know about our bakery, we’re kind of a big deal in the fruitcake world. Why’s that? Because basically, we were the first-ever U.S.-based mail-order fruitcake company. That’s a pretty fancy feather in our cap.

But, we weren’t always the world-renowned fruitcake magnate known and loved today. Oh no! We have humble beginnings that started over 125 years ago. Our story begins when a young immigrant entrepreneur traveled to the Lone Star State with a dream and a whisk…

A Match Made In Heaven

In 1896, when a man by the name of Augustus “Gus” Weidmann traveled from Wiesbaden, Germany, to Corsicana, Texas, with the dream of opening a bakery.  Ladened with recipes from his motherland, it was Gus’ sole ambition to bake and share his authentic homemade bread and cakes. Shortly after settling in town, he purchased a storefront off the town’s main thoroughfare, Collin Street, and Collin Street Bakery was born.

 

The business, however, was not an immediate success. While Gus was a natural baker, he was far from a natural businessman. Shy and introverted, Gus lacked the specific salesmanship sparkle required to keep his bakery afloat. Luckily for Gus, in 1900, he was introduced to a local entrepreneur, Thomas McElwee. The two took a shine to one another, and a partnership was formed. Thomas agreed to man the bakery’s front-of-house operations, thus allowing Gus to stay where he referred, in the kitchen. In retrospect, had it not been for this partnership, it’s very possible Collin Street Bakery would not exist today.

 

With the newly minted duo in place, Collin Street’s business began to blossom. In the early 1900s, the bakery was best known for its freshly baked bread delivered directly to homes and businesses with the assistance of horse-drawn carriages. Over time, however, the demand for our bread began to outpace our delivery efforts, and horse-drawn carriages were replaced by the far more efficient Model-T Trucks.

Bed & Breakfast

By 1906, Collin Street Bakery was thriving. With the local community clamoring for more and more of the bakery’s breads and cakes, Gus was struggling to keep up with the demand. So, Thomas decided it was time to expand the business. A two-storied, second location, situated on the corner of 6th and Main, was purchased. The bakery would be located on the bottom floor and as for the top floor, Thomas had a plan.

You see, at this time, Corsicana was a booming oil town tucked snugly in the crook of one of the country’s most-trafficked railroad intersections. For some time, Thomas McElwee had been observing the comings and goings of the town’s visitors; he watched as travelers arrived on one train, stayed the night, then departed on the next morning after. With so many guests frequenting the town, Thomas astutely saw the value in owning rent-by-the-day lodging. So, he modified the second story of the newly purchased bakery location with individual rooms and began operating a luxury hotel.

 

In just weeks, business at the second location was booming! With a continuous flow of new customers visiting both the hotel and the bakery, it appeared Thomas had landed on a winning combination. And, because the Collin Street Bakery’s hotel was one of the more lavish and accommodating stays in the area, it drew visitors of high stature and wealth; visitors like opera singer Enrico Caruso, stage and film actor Will Rogers, Major League Baseball player John J. McGraw, circus owner John Ringling, and professional boxer “Gentleman Jim” Corbett.

Stumbled In Backwards

So, how did Collin Street go from a thriving local bakery to a globally recognized mail-order business? By complete accident, that’s how! Turns out, some of life’s best ideas are simply stumbled upon. In the bakery’s case, our tumble into greatness occurred not too long after the hotel's grand opening...

For most guests, staying the night in a hotel situated atop a bakery was dangerously tempting. Mouth-watering aromas of freshly baked goods flooded the hotel day and night. Lured by the scent, most patrons would purchase cakes as gifts and treats just before leaving town. The most frequently bought item? - Our DeLuxe® Fruitcake!

 

Remember, most customers were simply passing through town, staying for a single night before continuing on to parts unknown. Because our DeLuxe® Fruitcakes were trusted to safely travel long distances, required no refrigeration, and were downright delicious any time of the day, they were a huge hit amongst out-of-towners. Once departing, customers would share a slice of fruitcake here and there, unknowingly broadcasting the Collin Street Bakery name to friends, family members, and even other fellow travelers.

Little did Thomas or Gus, Collin Street Bakery's name was being spread and celebrated near and far. Guests, travelers, and celebrities alike had all been sharing their cakes with friends and family, each of whom was eager to purchase a cake of their own. Soon, letters came pouring in, bearing requests for Collin Street to mail our fruitcakes to locations all across the nation. Not wanting to disappoint a single eager customer, Thomas and Gus began boxing up cakes and mailing them out, thus unknowingly starting one of the country's first mail-order food businesses.

Fast Forward

Well a hop, a skip, and a jump later, here we are today. Tom McElwee and Gus Weidmann are no longer with us. Deeply connected to each other, they passed away within a year of one another. However, the management of Collin Street Bakery transitioned smoothly into experienced hands, remaining a family-owned and -operated business ever since.

 

Meanwhile, the unplanned global expansion of our humble bakery helped make us the business we are today. And over a hundred years later, many things haven’t changed. Granted, we no longer own the hotel, and we no longer deliver in a horse and buggy BUT, we still make the world’s best dang fruitcake—the DeLuxe®. We still ship all over the world, year-round, and we still call Corsicana our home.

 

We’ve perfected the art of baking quality goods, ensuring they arrive at your doorstep fresh and ready to eat. We’re practically mail-order dessert experts. So, whether your order is for one cake or 1,000, we make certain your DeLuxe® will arrive in perfect condition anywhere in the world. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not! Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee means if you don’t absolutely love what arrives, we’ll make it right.

Put Our Skills to the Test!

Order one of our world-famous DeLuxe® Fruitcakes today and see for yourself if we live up to the hype. Our DeLuxe® Fruitcake is just a few clicks away. Available in a variety of sizes AND in sliced and unsliced versions, you're guaranteed to find something you like. Shop all our delicious selection of DeLuxe® Fruitcakes today!

Comments
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Bill Cash
January 3, 2022
Love your fruit cakes. Have ordered them for the past 25 years +/-. We order several each year and give them to our family and friends for Christmas. Keep them coming. Ready to order next year's Christmas cakes.
Collin Street Bakery
January 3, 2022
Thank you so much for the very kind words!
Diane D. Yarbrough
January 3, 2022
When we lived in Conroe, I worked for a company that sent those fruit cakes to all of their customers every Christmas. They were a big hit and everyone just loved them, as we do.
Collin Street Bakery
January 3, 2022
Thank you!
JANET EAVES
January 3, 2022
All your cakes are delicious and I send them as gifts year around!
Collin Street Bakery
January 3, 2022
Thank you so much!
Collin Street Bakery
January 3, 2022
Thank you so much!
Eric Osterberg
January 3, 2022
An amazing story, so interesting and beneficial to Americans. I have been purchasing the Collin's Street fruitcake for years! They are the best tasting fruitcakes I have ever had! Thanks again for your story!
Collin Street Bakery
January 3, 2022
Thank you for reading! We appreciate your kind words.
Sandra
January 3, 2022
My family are native Texans and to us there is nothing to compare to Collins Street Bakery! Love everything we have tried but the Deluxe Fruitcake is the ultimate in beautiful tin!!!!
Collin Street Bakery
January 3, 2022
Thank you so much!
Jonathan & Bette Perlman
January 3, 2022
Your story is wonderful, however I have a problem. I am amassing dozens of empty tins. I hate to just throw them away. In this era of recycling is there any way I can return my collection (about 15) to you for reuse?
Collin Street Bakery
January 5, 2022
Thank you for your kind question. We do not reuse the tins. However, you are free to dispose of them however is most convenient for you. They make great storage for smaller items!
Susan York
January 3, 2022
I was born in 1953 and have been eating the wonderful “Corsicana Fruitcakes” every since my teeth came in
Collin Street Bakery
January 5, 2022
Thank you so much!
Mrs. CHRISTINE GREENE
January 3, 2022
Love your Deluxe fruitcakes - order them every year. My Father has ordered them for many years. He even sent 2 of them to my Marine soldier son during the war in Afghanistan.
Collin Street Bakery
January 5, 2022
How sweet of him! We are so glad you all enjoy our cakes.
Mark Stewart
January 3, 2022
I don't remember when I had my first Deluxe Fruitcake, but it was before 1955, maybe late '40s when Dad would receive a large one every Christmas. I wasn't a big fruit cake fan until I started eating Deluxe. On a family trip to Texas about 20 years ago I made a special out of the way visit to Collins Street Bakery and got lots of goodies. Christmas no longer passes without Deluxe being in the house. I have loved the tin from the beginning and would love to learn it's history. I'll be 85 in May.
Collin Street Bakery
January 5, 2022
Thank you so much for your kind words. We appreciate you so much! We are so glad you have been able to enjoy our cakes and visit us.
Alison Wilcock
January 4, 2022
As a young Brit I first tasted your cake in the early 1960's when my great-aunt, who lived in Chicago, gave us one when she visited her homeland. I never forgot the taste, and when my parents were given one by a friend in the early 2000's, I immediately recognised it by it's taste and texture, even after nearly 4o years. I was hooked. Thankfully, the Internet made the job of sourcing it easier than it would have been back in the 1960's, and I purchased my first one in 2005. I've continued to do so ever since, in spite of the fact that I am a cake maker myself and often make celebration cakes for friends and family. I call your cake ' a Christmas present to myself', although I do, grudgingly, share it with others! Great to hear the history, as we were discussing the company with friends only this New Years Day when they had a slice with their afternoon tea. They themselves have a son now living in San Diego, so I guess some gift hints may be given before his next trip back, as they were very impressed!
Collin Street Bakery
January 5, 2022
Thank you so much for sharing this with us! We are so glad you found us again and enjoyed our story. We appreciate you sharing our history with others. We love being your Christmas present. Thank you!
Dorothy Michalak
January 5, 2022
We started receiving your DeLuxe Fruitcake probably at least 40 years ago from a business co-worker. That created a yearly tradition which I now continue with my older son. Lots of years of fruitcake, but all the same consistent quality and excellent taste. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without unwrapping one of your fruitcakes!
Collin Street Bakery
January 5, 2022
Thank you for allowing us to be your yearly tradition!
JERRE CONDER
February 11, 2022
The history of the people behind Collin Street Bakery is interesting and enjoyable. But as a history buff, I'm fascinated by the baking itself. You state that "-- WORLD-FAMOUS FRUITCAKE -- The Fruitcake or Pecan Cake you order today is still baked true to the Old-World recipe brought to Corsicana, Texas from Wiesbaden, Germany in 1896 by master baker Gus Weidmann. True to the "Old World recipe" sounds great. But what fascinates me from a historical perspective is WHERE ON EARTH did Collin Street - for their "true recipe" - manage to find High Fructose Corn Syrup in 1896?
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