Tempt Your Taste Buds with Greenlee’s Irresistible Cinnamon Bread
Our local vendor Greenlee’s Bakery makes some of the best fresh pastries around and we’re letting you try one of their most famous recipes for free!
By Carmelo Sigona
Whether it was in the Sigona’s checkout line, or it was because of the scent of cinnamon sweeping through the air in front of Greenlee’s Bakery in San Jose that you gave into temptation, we bet you were hooked at first bite. We’re talking about the irresistible, deliciously sweet, soft, buttery and cinnamon-swirled treat that is Greenlee’s Best Cinnamon Bread.
In honor of the St. Patrick’s Day green theme, we’re excited to announce that our gift to you this week (Mar. 9-15, 2011) is a free loaf of locally made Greenlee’s Best Cinnamon Bread. Get one free from us with your coupon when you spend $30 or more.
Made from a secret family recipe, Greenlee’s Best Cinnamon Bread is, as it always has been, baked at the green-awninged Greenlee’s Bakery located at 1081 The Alameda in San Jose. The bakery has been family owned and operated since 1924, transitioning from one family to another only once in its near 87-year existence, it was during the transition of ownership that the cinnamon bread as we know it today came to be.
Norbert and Rosalinda Geldner, current owners of Greenlee’s Bakery, bought the business in 1981 from Emmett Greenlee, whose father opened the bakery in the 1920s. Norbert, who was born and raised in Berlin, Germany, and Rosalinda, who was born and raised in Monterey, Mexico, had extensive experience in the baking industry and previously owned and operated Cambrian Bakery in San Jose. Norbert also had traveled the world as a pastry chef, specializing in the art of European pastries.
“Mr. Greenlee made a cinnamon bread at Greenlee’s Bakery before my parents took over,” said Janette Robertson, one of Norbert and Rosalinda’s two daughters. “The cinnamon bread we sell today came about almost by mistake. Dad took Mr. Greenlee’s recipe and made a few tweaks to enhance it, such as adding the buttery crumb streusel. What he did worked because it’s a best seller.”
The Geldner’s daughters, Janette Robertson and Rosalena Garrett, grew up in the bakery. They’d get up early…very early…with their parents to go to the bakery before their grandmother would pick them up for school. After school, they’d head straight back to the bakery to finish out the day with their parents.
“I remember sleeping in the back of the bakery on flour sacks when I was very young,” said Janette. “Both Rosalena and I worked at the bakery growing up. We didn’t think much of it at the time; we didn’t even really like it. It was hard work and our family worked all the time, but now we appreciate the business-minded approach our parents instilled in us. That’s part of the reason we’re still a part of the family business today.”
“Running a bakery is not easy by any means,” said Rosalena. “Our parents were at the bakery all day, every day, and are still very hands on. Theirs is a story of passion, dedication and hard work, which is partly a result of their culture and life as emigrants who’ve dedicated their lives to their work. It’s a little American dream.”
Don’t you just love stories like that? I’ve always really enjoyed listening to the tales of how family-owned businesses, like Sigona’s, came to be and about the niche that’s made them special in their communities.
Greenlee’s Bakery has a full line of pastries and goodies for sale and in-bakery enjoyment – you name it, they probably make it – including their famous breakfast burritos. If you live outside of San Jose and have recently heard of Greenlee’s, it’s most likely because of the promotions and marketing done by Janette and her entrepreneurial-minded husband, D.J., whom she met while he frequented the bakery as a customer.
In 2007, Janette and D.J. began taking a few hundred loaves of Greenlee’s Best Cinnamon Bread to local farmers markets where they’d quickly sell out. It was only a matter of time before their bread piqued the interest of local specialty stores, like Sigona’s, and production went from a few thousand loaves a week to a few thousand loaves a day. We’ve worked with Greenlee’s as a local vendor for about five years and their cinnamon bread has always been a top seller.
“D.J. and I now own the rights to the bread and did all the marketing and distribution ourselves for the first few years,” said Janette. “We went from selling at two farmers markets over a weekend to 10 on a Saturday and then 15 on a Sunday. It quickly grew into a beast of its own and we’re in specialty stores around the Bay and other states.
As the bakery has done with all its fresh-baked pastries for more than 80 years, they use only the best quality, all-natural ingredients, such as California dairy products and the finest cinnamon.
The bread is handmade and in the same “old fashioned” way to make sure each loaf features its signature marbling of gooey-sweet cinnamon running throughout. In addition to the cinnamon bread, they bake and distribute fresh-baked cinnamon raisin bread and cinnamon blueberry bread. You can find Greenlee’s Best Orange Bread at our Palo Alto location, too.
“It’s always been a family business and of course we hope to keep it that way,” said Rosalena, who, along with her husband Bryan, own and operate Café Rosalena (next door to Greenlee’s Bakery) and Rosie’s New York Pizza, also on The Alameda. Bryan and Rosalena also met at the bakery as Bryan would stop by frequently for his favorite apple turnovers. “Our husbands as well as our children have helped out, from demoing to labeling packaged products to staffing the counter, just as we did when we were growing up.”
As for eating the bread, one of my personal favorite things to do is make it into French toast. Talk about bringing the family to the table! The sweet smell of the cinnamon, sugar and the buttery streusel wafting through the house can wake even the soundest sleeper and send them shuffling to the breakfast table.
“Customers come into the bakery all the time to tell us about the different ways they use the bread,” said Janette. “Some people like it simply toasted with butter, while others get creative with dishes like bread pudding. One creation I heard recently was from a customer who prepares a toasted slice topped with freshly baked apples, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Another spreads a little mascarpone cheese on a toasted slice and then drizzles it with honey. Oh my, now that’s delicious!”
Is your mouth watering like mine is?
“I’ve always liked it best straight out of the bag, untoasted,” said Rosalena. “Our dad is a little more adventurous with different spreads and flavors, like a garlic and herb cream cheese. As strange as it sounds, he tried that a while ago and the sweet and savory combination was surprisingly really good!”
We’d love to hear about the different ways you enjoy the bread – don’t forget to print out your coupon and come in to get your free loaf this week (March 9-15th, 2011) when you spend $30 or more. We know you’ll love this deliciously sweet treat.