The Home Place has become one of my favorite Plain-owned businesses. Located in Brown County, Ohio - about 40 minutes east of downtown Cincinnati - I first visited last summer. The store has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Today, we'll focus on the bakery and Monday I'll show you the revamped and expanded store and chat with the owner.
When I dropped in two days before Thanksgiving The Home Place bakery was operating at full capacity. Bread was being sliced, rolls baked, pie crusts filled, and cookies cooled. The Home Place is a family-owned and operated business, run by Delbert Schlabach and his family. And everyone is pressed into service on such a busy day.The Schlabachs, by the way, are not Amish. They are Beachy Amish Mennonites a closely related church that hews to many of the same religious tenants, but they do embrace more modernity.
Delbert's wife, Susan , was arriving at The Home Place early this morning to start one of the busiest and longest days of the year.
"I'll come in about 4 a.m. to start on the dinner rolls, that's what everyone will be wanting tomorrow," Susan says. And they'll be wanting pies, breads, and cookies, too. Susan estimates that by the time the day is done, they will have churned out about 100 dozen dinner rolls.
"We try not to ever run out of anything" says Kate, the new bakery manager. While the Schlabach's store does utilize plenty of technology to make it hum, the bakery is still largely a bastion of binders and recipe cards. Kate goes over the numbers from last year's day-before Thanksgiving and tries to base this year's on that. But it's an inexact science and anything could happen today. Still, experience has given them a leg up and they run the bakery with silky smooth efficiency. For instance:
"We don't like to make pie crusts on such a busy day," Susan explains. So she shows me a freezer full of pie crusts that they made up ahead of time so on the crazy-busy day before Thanksgiving all they have to do is fill and bake.
What strikes the outsider who might wander into the kitchen is how effortless it all seems. No, it's not effortless. But the approximately 8 to 10 workers, all close family or friends, preparing Thanksgiving goodies seem to work with such efficiency that it seems effortless to an outsider.
The pecan pie is a family recipe and is quite popular with customers.
"We've got customers who can't do without pecan pie. I wonder how pecan pie became such a Thanksgiving tradition?" Susan muses, because it doesn't move that much the rest of the year. Susan relays a funny story about when she was invited over for dinner by someone in her church and was served pecan pie.
"This is really good!" Susan commented to the baker.
"You should like it," the Mennonite woman replied. "It's from your bakery!"
Despite being around hundreds of pecan pie pies for days most of the bakers will be eager to relax and sample some of their own work on Thanksgiving Day.
"My sister and family are coming over for dinner on Thanksgiving Day and I thought I'd do cheesecake, but there just isn't time. So pecan pie is on the menu," Susan says. And if you are looking for your own delicious, easy dinner roll recipe and you can't make it to The Home Place to buy some, here is Susan's recipe:
SUSAN'S SCHLABACH'S DINNER ROLLS