By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent
Trenton Catholic Academy and Eet Gud Bakery are staples in their community.
Situated just a mile apart in Hamilton, their fingerprints in the neighborhood are far-reaching, with alumni and fans from all over, going back generations. So the fact that the two will be more closely related in the future can only come as welcome news to those who have benefitted from what they provide.
Under new ownership and management, which was reported in the Jan. 11 issue of The Monitor, the Eet Gud Bakery is celebrating its 90th year of business – one that includes pre-existing staff, treasured recipes and loyal customers, many of whom are affiliated with TCA in one way or another. That fact was not lost on new Eet Gud CEO Tracey Destribats, who is also director of advancement and development at TCA.
“It’s important to support others in the community,” Destribats said, adding that as a patron of Eet Gud, she watched many businesses in the area fold, particularly in Chambersburg. “I grew up in Trenton, not far from here, and this [bakery] was the constant.”
Now, Destribats wants to continue the constant, with the help of prior owner Donna Gorish, and see that proceeds from Eet Gud help support TCA’s scholarship program. Joining her in the bakery endeavor are TCA colleagues Michael Knowles, director of community relations and robotics teacher, and Rose O’Connor, director of marketing.
When the bakery went up for sale in 2015, Destribats and Knowles had lightly discussed the idea of TCA purchasing it as a fundraising endeavor. When that didn’t come to fruition, Destribats finally took matters into her own hands.
Now that the details are ironed out, and some property updates have been made, what was once a “what if” between TCA coworkers has become a reality.
Time to Make the Donuts
Upon entering Eet Gud Bakery at 2113 Hamilton Ave., two phrases immediately come to mind:
“Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name,” and, “If you bake it, they will come.”
The frosting of falling snow Jan. 17 – bearing an uncanny resemblance to the powdered sugar tops of the bakery’s legendary cream donuts – didn’t keep customers from their highly anticipated favorites that reappeared in their glass display cases following the customary two-week closure after the new year and reopening under its new owner.
The Mayberry-esque atmosphere of familiarity and first-name basis between patrons and staff is one of the reasons people come to Eet Gud, rather than the grocery store uber-bakeries or chain coffee shops.
“Most supermarkets now have bakeries, which are convenient, but not special,” Knowles observed. “Here, it’s a unique experience. You get individual attention.”
Added Jerri Tiger, who has been working at the Eet Gud bakery counter the past nine years, “People walking in are like family.”
Customer Raymond Staub grew up in the Trenton area. His whole family patronizes the bakery, and he believes the Eet Gud and TCA connection will be beneficial to the Hamilton community.
“I know Tracey, and no doubt, I can see [TCA and the bakery] going hand-in-hand. She’s always been about giving,” Staub said. “It’ll be a mix of great service, but more up-to-date, with a place to sit and talk – I like the tables.”
Destribats noted that adding the tables and chairs was something that Gorish had always wanted to do. Wi-Fi service will also be installed, and the bakery will eventually be open for business on Mondays as well.
“We’re going out and talking to customers,” she explained, “asking them their opinions.”
History and Charity
In 1928, Gorish’s grandfather Joseph Schaffener, 19, and his wife, Mary, purchased the Hamilton bakery and renamed it Eet Gud. Ninety years later, Gorish is convinced the bakery couldn’t be in better hands.
Also a Catholic, Gorish said faith definitely played a part in finding the bakery’s new owner. “You don’t know how long I’ve been praying for someone to come and do it justice… It was just perfect timing.”
Gorish began as a teenager working the register, with the bakery owned and managed by her mother, Peggy Harvey, and uncle, Joe Schaffener. She learned the art of cake decorating from them, describing it as “the school of hard knocks.”
The bakery expanded in the 1960s, adding the deli portion and establishing relationships with local vendors – which Destribats intends to maintain. Gorish has managed the bakery for the past 17 years, continuing to decorate the custom cakes, following in the footsteps of her uncle and grandfather.
With no family in the area willing to take on the business, however, Gorish was faced with potentially selling her beloved third-generation bakery to a stranger, with no control over what might happen to the property. That’s when Destribats showed up.
When asked whether she heard of the Catholic practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down on the property to help it sell, Gorish motioned outside with a smile and said, “Yes, St. Joseph’s out in the garden!”
“I heard you have to thank the Lord twice as hard as when you prayed for the favor,” she quipped.
With Destribats at the helm, Gorish is happily installed in the kitchen, continuing to decorate cakes and offer her visions for the bakery’s next phase. She looks forward to more flexibility in her schedule.
“[Tracey’s] a good person, and I like what they want to do with the school,” Gorish said. “There are so many opportunities for employment and fundraisers here.”
Knowles, who began in marketing at TCA and is now on board as Eet Gud’s general manager, credits Destribats with the idea of a profit-based business connected with the school.
Knowles’ said that the bakery will eventually seek to hire TCA students as employees and interns, as well as sponsoring “ordering fundraisers,” in which community organizations and schools, including TCA, could have a portion of sales during the event go back to their institutions. “We’re Hamiltonians,” he said. “We’re a part of this community, and we want to be good partners with the rest of the community.”