In sixth grade I chose “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost to memorize. It is a short poem, but poignant. We had three poems to choose from. I chose Frost because it was shorter than Emily Dickinson’s “These Are The Days That Birds Come Back” and because it didn’t require Middle English as a Chaucer selection did – “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote…” It’s another way of saying that nothing lasts forever, that all things must pass.
We are reminded of that truth this week. The Virginia Bakery, which has been here since forever and which we though would be here until forever is closing today, April 28th.
In 1934, German immigrants Ewald and Elsa Poeschel opened the bakery in 1934 and sold it to Charles Erdmann in 1953, the year that John Erdman was born. In 1979, Charles died and 26-year-old John took it over with his mother. John’s wife Anne joined in the business in the 1980s.
They are both turning 65 this May and they decided that enough is enough. That’s it, as simple as that.
With a run as long as Virginia Bakery has had, Berkeley generation after Berkeley generation has memories of Virginia Bakery.
My most recent memories involved meetings of the Berkeley Historical Plaques Project at the Rose Street home of Robert and Diana Kehlmann.
The group is a collection of brilliant men and women who have lived their lives in Berkeley and have forgotten more than I’ll ever know about Berkeley and are witty and urbane. Diana would buy a Virginia Bakery coffee cake and serve it with tea. Talk about guilty pleasure!
Speaking of baked goods:
The cookies are mostly small and not exactly cutting-edge moderne.
Nonpareils are dark chocolate discs sprinkled with small, white candy balls. The name refers to the small candy balls and is from the French word for “without equal.” The application here is not literal, but they are tasty little things.
The main event in the main arena at Virginia Bakery has been the cakes.
The cakes and cookies and baked goods are a blast from the past, based on food values and tastes of decades past. It is thus fitting that the bakery have a bit of what others might call kitsch:
It’s all a package.
Carmen – 27 years on the job!
Like I said, we all have our own special memories of Virginia Bakery.
Youngest daughter Charlotte went to the Berkeley Montessori School on Francisco kind of right around the corner.
Her routine was – nap at school, pick up, Virginia Bakery. She is on the right in this photo. Her friends and Kyra (left) and Rachel (center) from school joined her this day.
Both Charlotte and middle daughter Rosalie had Virginia Bakery cakes for many birthdays.
This photo of a Charlotte birthday is from the era when she studied Kuk Sool on Sacramento near Dwight.
Middle daughter Rosalie (pink shirt) contemplates a Virginia Bakery cake.
I asked my friend about the post.
He said, “Felix culpa.”
“The sin of Adam viewed as fortunate, because it brought about the blessedness of the Redemption. More broadly, an apparent error with happy consequences.”
“Are you saying that the loss of Virginia Bakery may lead to happy consequences?”
“For the Erdmans, surely. We had it when it was here. We shouldn’t be greedy. Let them have their lives. We had them for all those years. Hey – where’s the Big Love this morning?”
Well – isn’t he Mr. Philosopher this morning. “You mean – something looks wrong or sad, but – there is redemption around the corner?”
He finished the conversation with “Don’t you remember what your exalted Patti Smith said – The idea of redemption is always good news, even if it means sacrifice or some difficult times?”
He knows that quoting Patti is a way to end a debate with me. Patti rules. So, thought, what about John Storey’s photos? What about the blasts-from-the-past of Charlotte and Rosalie? What about those baked goods?
Waiting in line now. Probably had my first Virginia Bakery ‘beehive’ 50 years ago–they were the family special treat when I was a kid. I’ll miss VB, but glad they were able to just close and and not attempt to reincarnate. Not all things live forever.
Seems I saw Carmen there much longer. She and others were like old friends! Many happy kids (and parents) satisfied at VB!!
I bought an apple-spice cake, a raisin swirl and a cream puff ( the first thing I bought when I returned from the financial dead in 2012). Was it the last old-time bakery?..