Sunrise Bakery in Beatrice is celebrating 100 years in business on Friday.
Countless doughnuts, rolls, loaves of bread and danishes have passed through the ovens and fryers of Sunrise over the past century and, for the past 84 years, a Replogle has been in the kitchen.
It began with Clayton Ray Replogle, the great-great grandfather of current owner, Clayton Replogle, who took over the bakery when his father, Greg Replogle, died last year. Greg had inherited Sunrise from his father, Sheldon Replogle, who bought the bakery from Mr. and Mrs. T.M. Ward in 1951. The Wards purchased the bakery after the previous owner, Milton G. Keedy, died in 1945. Keedy bought the bakery in 1929, though it’s not clear from whom.
The earliest reference to Sunrise Bakery found in an archived newspaper was from August 19, 1925 in the Lincoln Journal Star. It was an urgent help wanted ad that read “Baker—second man wanted at once! Answer in person. Do not write or phone. Sunrise Bakery, Beatrice, Neb.”
That ad was published around four years after the bakery moved to its current spot at 419 Court St. in downtown Beatrice. It was originally located inside the Lyric Theater, which was razed in the 1970s and is now the parking lot across from the Beatrice Police Department.
Since the move, there have been some expansions. The bakery took over neighboring properties, which used to house a jewelry store and a bar, and expanded to its current size.
Inside, behind the counters filled with pastries, lies the kitchen. Stretching back to the alley that runs behind it, the kitchen has machines for mixing, flattening dough and cutting it.
“This one’s been here forever,” Replogle said, sliding a pan of dough into the cutting machine. He pulled the handle, then lifted up to reveal perfect portions of dough for pecan sticky rolls. “Haven’t had to do much to it, just keep it oiled,” he said.
Clayton Replogle does most of the maintenance work at the bakery himself. By his own account, he’s a baker, handyman, electrician and plumber when called upon.
As a baker, he and a crew of eight bake about 21 dozen cake doughnuts, 16 dozen glazed doughnuts, nine dozen twists, 12 dozen cinnamon rolls, 30 dozen long johns and 20 dozen rolls every day, and that’s just to start the morning. They do special orders every day, including treats for the afternoon customers—“the coffee crew” employee Shelly Wiles calls them—and special orders.
They make cookies for business functions and bake hot dog buns for Julie’s Hot Dogs. They also make all the rye buns for the Wilbur Czech Fest. Making thousands of buns, on top of their regular doughnuts and pastries, is a challenge.
For Sunrise, Homestead Days is one of the busies times of the year, and sometimes the bakers will have lines out the door from the time they open at 4 a.m. until they close at 4 p.m.
This year for Homestead Days, Sunrise is hosting a 100th anniversary celebration on Friday, giving away prizes and offering discounts. Bakery staff also had t-shirts, hats and coffee mugs printed up for the event, which came in on Wednesday, just in time for the celebration.
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“This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this,” Replogle said.
Sunrise keeps things simple, but the bakery still makes a big impact on the community.
“I think it’s humbling to know you’re such an important part of the community,” said Betty Replogle, Clayton's mother. “It's a gathering place. When people come back to visit Beatrice, everybody tells us, when their kids come home or when a relative comes back to town, the first thing they say is 'Let's go get rolls and donuts at Sunrise.'”
On top of the local orders, Sunrise Bakery gets orders from people in Lincoln who are willing to make the trek down to Beatrice once a week or more for their donuts, she said.
The reason for that is because everything is made from scratch, Replogle said. The donuts, the bread, the cakes, the puddings and creams: everything but the fruit filling is made from scratch in the kitchen.
Doug Horrocks stopped by to grab an afternoon coffee and donut on Thursday afternoon. He’s comes in quite a bit, he said. Sunrise staff know him by name and what he will order. He has been coming to Sunrise Bakery for years, and he knows what keeps him coming back.
“The good rolls, mainly," he said. “The help is just always marvelous. You usually see people you know. But of course, mainly the rolls.”
About three years ago, the bakery had to close down for a month to repair some water damage.
According to Betty, regular customers would stop her on the street several times a day and ask when Sunrise would be open again.
“We had a customer the very first day we reopened, at 4 a.m., standing outside the door waiting to come in,” she said. “Once word spread we were open again, the next few days were crazy, but it was wonderful crazy.”
After his father died in 2016, Clayton took over. It has been a challenge, but every time he’s back in the kitchen, he is reminded of his father and of each of the family members that came before him.
“Do I have big shoes to fill? Yeah,” he said. “Even though none of the previous owners are alive to watch me either succeed or fail, I know they're watching. They may not be here physically, but I know they're watching.”