Frank Harlacher originally began his training as a baker in Williamsport. In 1899, he would open a bakery in the Opera House block and the general public put their stamp of approval upon his venture.
At the end of five years, he bought and remodeled one of the old Rowland Hughes buildings where, until recently, had been the Smith Jewelry store on the east side of North Main Street in the 100 block.
The new location was perfect for the sale of bread. Things were going great until Feb. 7, 1908. Fire consumed about half a block of downtown Monticello. Harlacher would immediately rebuild and was part of several businesses that were burned down.
The reconstruction efforts included the White County Loan, Trust and Savings Company as well as the Goodman store. Harlacher immediately, after the fire, secured a rental room on the Southside block just south of the courthouse.
After completion of Harlacher’s building, the store became known as the Harlacher Bakery. According to Frank, the new building surpassed all of his expectations.
The building had all plate glass front windows and was artistically decorated throughout. The bakery ovens were in the rear. The bakery was one of the best and most modern shops in Monticello.
At the grand opening of the store, the public, along with the food inspector, was invited to tour the new facility. The food inspector pronounced that the shop was a model of sanitary completeness.
With the shop’s modern equipment, exacting cleanliness and its capacity for turning out volumes of fresh baked bread, there was little chance that Monticello would go hungry, even if all of the other bakery establishments in Monticello were to close.
The bread sales room also had a confectionery department where assortments of the best candies could be purchased. The candies were located beside an elegant soda fountain which was a gathering point for customers when in season.
The patronage of clients when the weather was hot found a steady stream of customers coming to the shop. Parlor chairs and tables were provided for ice cream enthusiasts.
One of the more interesting portions of the shop was the leading news stand in Monticello. Horace Heath was in charge of this arena. The best newspapers and periodicals could be purchased.
By 1913, Harlacher began selling his loaves of bread to other stores in White County. Advertisements from this period headlined Harlachers as “The Bread Factory.” One of the first wholesale clients was A. Ruemler in Reynolds. Also in 1913, Harlacher added Frank Robbins as foreman, who was a valued employee having extensive experience in the business. Robbins would later have his own bakery.
On May 3, 1917, an article appeared in the Burnettsville News regarding the escalating prices for ingredients in making bread due to the war effort to provide overseas allies with food. The title of the article was “5 Cent Loaf Goes Down in History.”
The article notes that bakers have discontinued the manufacture of loaves of bread selling for less than 10 cents a loaf. Harlacher Bakery in Monticello stated that the action of the bakers did not come unexpectedly. Nearly all other cities and towns in the state have taken the same action.
The old five-cent loaves weighed eight to 10 ounces. The bakers are making a little more profit off of a 10-cent loaf because of the added trouble of making two loaves when one larger loaf could take its place.
Paper also was saved in wrapping the bread as it takes just a little bit more paper to wrap a 10-cent loaf than it takes to wrap a five-cent one. The article goes on to say that the Harlacher bread factory is making 10- and-15-cent loaves.
The 15-cent loaves contain about 29 ounces of dough and the 10-cent loaves 18 ounces. In the long run, the 15-cent loaves are the cheapest.
Harlacher notes that it is nearly impossible to make the smaller five-cent loaf because the loaf would have too much crust and would not be thick enough to hold the moisture. Before the prices of wheat and other ingredients of dough went sky high in price, the five-cent loaves of bread contained 14 or more ounces of dough.
On Aug. 20, 1918, on the front page of the Monticello Herald an article appeared about another obstacle for the Harlacher Bakery. He found himself in a labor shortage.
With most of the young men off to World War I and others working to supply war materials and raising food for the war effort, there were not enough men available to work in the bakery.
At the same time, the bakery business was becoming a 24-hour-a-day operation. Harlacher employed two shifts. He found it difficult just to have a full roster for just the day shift. The same issue faced most of the local businesses in Monticello. When the war ended and the soldiers began coming back home, the labor shortage vanished.
At the end of August every year was the Harlacher’s family vacation month. In August 1918, Roscoe Fraser, age 24, who yet today is a familiar name in Monticello, was tasked with running the bakery while the Harlacher family took their annual vacation. Fraser was the agricultural county agent forever.
On June 15, 1919, the dam at the base of St. Mary’s Avenue north of Monticello gave way. The turbines that generate electricity left Monticello without power. While the event wouldn’t be classified as catastrophic for local citizens, there was one sticking point.
Without electricity, the giant dough mixers would not run, which meant no bread for Monday morning. Monticello without bread on Monday morning — can you imagine it? It would have been unendurable in 1919.
Citizens could do without a newspaper … but not bread. The days of making bread at home, by this time, was almost a lost art. Had it not been for the ingenuity of men like Harlacher, Monticello would have had a breadless Monday.
During the blackout, John Reeder, a bakery competitor, was quick to jump on a salesman demonstrating a Delco power system and engaged him to power his grinder that mixed the bread dough so Monticello was not breadless on Monday morning. Harlacher and family had taken an automobile trip that day and Frank did not arrive home until 6 p.m. Sunday.
Harlacher searched for a solution. He could not find a gasoline engine in town that was powerful enough to operate his mixer. He was determined and contacted Eugene Roth to come to his aid.
Roth secured a big Samson tractor from the Dye & Gardner business. The pair worked until midnight cutting a hole in the rear wall of the Harlacher Bakery to allow a belt to go from the mixer to the tractor.
Louis Adams, who sold automotive batteries, hooked up batteries to automotive headlights to light the area around the mixer and oven and by 1 a.m., the Harlacher Bread Factory was back in business for the Monday morning rush.
The homemade contraption furnished the power to turn the mixer that saved the day.
In late April 1920, Harlacher decided to leave the bakery business and sold it to Louis B. Elmore, who would take possession on May 1. Harlacher had operated the bakery for 21 years, but it was time to retire to Dayton, Ohio, where his wife’s family was from.
During his ownership, Harlacher’s flourished. Frank made visiting the Harlacher Bakery an event. He was born June 4, 1874, and died in Kissimmee, Fla., at age 78 in 1953. He and his wife are buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery there.