The Topic at Hand: Our Bakery’s 125th Anniversary
This year is no ordinary year for Collin Street. In fact, this year is EXTRAordinary! That’s because 2021 represents the Bakery’s 125th year in business. This historical landmark year places Collin Street in a special category of businesses—a category reserved for only those companies who exhibit the highest level of quality and service, thus cultivating intense customer loyalty.
In honor of our hall of fame year, we were asked to appear on Bryan Weatherford’s television program, All In. On his show, Bryan tackles everything from news and politics to community and fun! His philosophy is a simple one—“Sometimes, life is a gamble. Sometimes, life is a game. Either way, you can win if you go All In.” And of course, Bryan is all in on our fruitcake. So we asked our very own Hayden Crawford to swing by his studio to chat about our DeLuxe® and our Bakery’s success. Here’s how that interview went!
Hayden Crawford on All In With Bryan Weatherford
Bryan Weatherford (BW): It's a big day for me personally here on All In with Bryan Weatherford. I'm going to tell you why. Born and raised here in Texas, specifically North Texas, I've heard about the Collin Street Bakery my entire life. Anytime I can have a business here in a studio that's been around longer than me, that's a big day. And well, it's (Collin Street Bakery) been around a lot longer than me. We're going to learn all about it right now.
We're talking with Mr. Collin Street Bakery, Hayden Crawford…Thanks for coming on board with us today.
Hayden Crawford (HC): Well, thanks for having me.
BW: Okay, I was joking a little bit about the fact that Collin Street's been around a little bit longer than me. How long have you been around?
HC: So coming up on 125 years.
BW: So a lot longer than me.
HC: 1896. A little bit longer than you, I'm thinking.
BW: So it's multi-generational? It's still a family business, right?
HC: Still a family business. We bought it from the original founding families back in the mid-forties, and it was a group that came out of Tennessee. Several of those Tennessee investors were the McNutt family. It's a third-generation McNutt that's running it now, and I'm the second generation.
BW: So, how long have you officially been working for the bakery?
HC: 15 years, I believe...My dad started in '61.
BW: So did you know from an early age that eventually, "Yep, this is the way I'm going," or did you do some other things and then finally decide, "I got to go over here?"
HC: So, both answers are correct. I knew that eventually, (Collin Street) is where I'd end up... I came out of college, went straight into a pecan shelling business. From there, I went into an ad agency. Went from there into a partnership with my current partner at the bakery, Bob McNutt, who had funded this business.
BW: What's your role? What do you do?
HC: Customer service is my main thing. And, I also do some merchandising and I'm the communications person for the bakery. So media: television, radio, newspaper; I'm the spokesperson.
BW: The face of the bakery?
BW: Okay. Well, as I mentioned, I'm born and raised here in Arlington, Texas. We're not too far from Corsicana. Have you always been in Corsicana?
HC: Yes, we have. We were founded there and we've never moved. But, we have put up stores in Waco and one near Tyler in Lindale on I-20, in addition to our Corsicana locations.
BW: Well...let's be honest, everybody associates (Collin Street Bakery) with fruitcake. Of course, you're more than fruitcake. Give me a ballpark figure on numbers or pounds or how much fruitcake we’re talking about?
HC: It's going to be north of a million pounds this year...We ship to all 50 states and to 196 foreign countries.
BW: Goodness gracious! Let's get this straight. There are a lot of businesses now that have had to scurry to figure out how to represent themselves online. You've been doing it for some time now.
HC: We've been doing it forever. So we were one of the first in the world to use mail order to sell our product. People have come to us for our expertise in how to mail-order food!
BW: Well, I've got to think the online side is far higher than the in-store side.
HC: It is, and growing. Every year we see an increase in that side of the business. It's fun to watch.
BW: Well, it's extremely fun to watch, and then frankly, it's fun to eat too.
HC: There you go!
BW: I'm going to get into the different ones here in a sec, but the one thing that's always intrigued me, again, is 120... how many years?
HC: It'll be 125 in January.
BW: Okay. And I know you've heard this before, so it's not just me talking. People say, "Well, I really don't like fruitcake." Well, you know what, people? There's a lot of people that love fruitcake or you wouldn't have been around this long.
HC: Well that's right.
BW: Why do people say that?
HC: Well...if you go to a store and you pick up a fruitcake at Christmas time, they're going to sell you schlock. It's easy to get, and it's easy to sell. BUT, ours is different! It's about a third pecan; they're freshly shelled. We have the world's largest pecan shelling plant in the same county as our bakery. These pecans are freshly shelled daily and a third of them go into the cake.
BW: Well, and let's be honest too, hey, there's a reason that you go all over the place to get the ingredients, because you want the top ingredients you can get.
HC: That's exactly right, we make sure that our cake is the best money can buy.
BW: So I'm going to go ahead and change it then. When people say they don't like fruitcake, what they're saying is, "We don't like fruitcake that doesn't come from Corsicana, Texas and Collin Street Bakery."
HC: Exactly—that's what they're saying! So what we do is, in all of our stores, we give out free samples of our DeLuxe® because there are a lot of people that think they don't like fruitcake. They'll tell you they don't, and if you stop and ask them, a lot of them will say, "Well, I've never had it. I just know I don't like it." Free samples can turn a lot of those folks around. The worst I've ever heard is, "Hey, that's not bad."
BW: Well, I'm the guy that says “I hate spinach” until I eat spinach, and now I love spinach. It's the same thing...but, there's a lot of stuff here on the table in front of us... Grab that red box here on my right. What is that? That looks special.
HC: This is our special product. This is the DeLuxe® Fruitcake. Before we went on air, I mentioned earlier to you, this is actually in The Godfather.
BW: Oh, wow!
HC: And this wasn't product placement. The set designer, we guess, wanted a little piece of Americana in the shot, and they placed our fruitcake tin, and you can see it, and I'd never spotted it before, none of my friends had, none of my partners had. Then someone saw it, screenshot it, sent it to me about a decade ago, and I use it in all of my advertising now.
BW: Well, it's a pretty good piece to have. You talk about your advertising... You guys get a little bit of press every year, and I know that's your job, but it's been going on, frankly, before you came around.
HC: Very true.
BW: Give us some examples of the people. I mean, we're talking print, electronic, everything!
HC: Well, we're such an iconic business and because we are Christmas-oriented, it is an attractive thing to cover during the season. We've been on a show on the Food Network called, The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
BW: Oh, absolutely, yeah!
HC: The chef on the show said, "I don't think I'm going to like fruitcake, but I want to try the best I've heard in the United States, so I'm going to try Collin Street's." He tried it, loved it, sampled it with his other chefs.
HC: We’ve also been featured on History Channel and ABC's, The Chew. The Travel Channel has also featured us. They have this thing called, The Jingle Brawls. And it’s a competition-style food show. And, one episode it was us against one of those monasteries that make their own kind of fruitcake. We won hands down! On the spot, the producers wanted me to trash talk at the monks, and I was like, "I don't want to trash talk." But they started talking trash so it turned into a friendly, fun rivalry.
BW: I bet! Well, let's talk non-fruitcake items. What do we got?
HC: Okay. So Collin Street is a full-service bakery. We have everything: bread, cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, and then, of course, our fruitcakes. In front of us, we have our Fudge Pecan Pie and our Fudge Pie—both are available in our Cafés, or you can order them online. Then, these guys, [grabs a box of DeLuxe® Fruitcake Petites], are a smaller version; it's a bite-sized version of our fruitcakes, chocolate-covered.
BW: So basically folks, here's the deal. Just, all you need to know is this. There's a reason (Collin Street) has been around for over 125 years—they know what the heck they're doing!
BW: Hayden Crawford, thanks for being here today, sir.
HC: Bryan, thank you! Thank you for having me.
Order one of our world-famous DeLuxe® Fruitcakes today and taste the cake that made us famous. Available in a variety of sizes AND in sliced and unsliced versions, you're guaranteed to find the right cake for you!