When you walk inside Geraldine’s Bakery, you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
“We are that nostalgic bakery from your past,” Rosemary Dehlow, the co-owner of Geraldine's Bakery along with her husband Fred Dehlow, said. “The one you went to with your grandparents to pick out a sprinkle doughnut or a black-and-white cookie.”
And the story of Geraldine’s Bakery is just as nostalgic. Fred started the bakery in honor of his mother and father.
Fred’s father Ernie Dehlow — a.k.a. Big Ernie — grew up in wartime Germany. But when WWII ended, the city he called home was demolished.
During these hard times, Fred explained that people would bring cartloads of money just to buy a loaf of bread. It was for this reason that Big Ernie, a starving and cold 14-year-old boy, became a baker’s apprentice in Berlin, Germany.
"If I became a baker, I knew I would always be warm,” Big Ernie would tell his son Fred, “stoking the coal ovens and sleeping on flour bags — and fed.”
Big Ernie, a Marine veteran, met Geraldine, who grew up in an orphanage near Thomasville, NC, “on the beachfront” while he was serving at Camp Lejune. They fell in love, moved to New York and Big Ernie decided to use his knowledge of baking to create a future for the both of them.
They opened two bakeries in Long Island, New York — one in 1975 and the second in 1985. When Fred became a 14-year-old boy, it was his turn to learn the family business and become a baker’s apprentice.
For almost 30 years, Fred worked side-by-side with his dad getting up before the crack of dawn every morning to bake the bread and fill the showcases with delicious treats. But once Big Ernie’s Parkinson’s Disease forced him to retire, Fred had to sadly close the family bakery in 2004.
Fred met Rosemary when he returned from the Navy in 1980. She worked for the Dehlow family throughout high school and credits the bakery for helping her pay for college. Eventually she earned a Master’s of Social Work degree and spent her entire career helping those who cannot or do not know how to help themselves. Like Fred’s mother, Rosemary also started life in an orphanage, spending the first three years of her life at one in Brooklyn, NY.
In 2013, the entrepreneurial bug hit Fred again. He found a little bakery in North Asheville for sale and jumped at the chance. But starting a business requires a lot of financial backup, which meant that while Fred moved down to Asheville, Rosemary stayed in New York for 2 ½ years to work and support their new business venture.
“The neighborhood was so welcoming,” Rosemary said, “that Fred used to call me and say with awe, ‘Our customers thank me for being here! Isn’t that nice? It makes waking up at 3 a.m. worthwhile.’”
Together at last in 2015, the couple put their heart and soul into Geraldine’s Bakery, selling only scratch-made baked products and supporting their local business community in any way they could.
“The business community is extremely collaborative, and we all support one another,” Rosemary said. “Fred and I have eaten at every restaurant that uses our bread. We want them to succeed!”
Fred and Rosemary have been happily married for over 36 years and have three amazing children. In fact, the fourth generation of Dehlow bakers entered this world in 2018. You just may find Lena Dehlow Caulo sleeping in her stroller as her grandma “RoRo” makes your egg sandwich.
If you’re looking for a new tradition this holiday season — or if you’re just looking for some delicious, handmade pastries — take the family over to Geraldine’s Bakery. You can also find all the specials and other exciting offers from the bakery on their Dig Local page.