Schmidt Bakery, located at 125 Batesville Shopping Village in Batesville, Indiana, originally opened its doors in 1963. It is one of the few full-service bakeries still offering breads, cakes, pies, donuts, Danishes and cookies, said Cindy Todd and Ginger Puente, who are now part-owners of the bakery with their sister Kim Atkinson.
Their dad, Clem Schmidt, opened the bakery with the passion to sell donuts in the morning and hoagies and pizza for lunch and dinner. Eventually he sold the pizza part of his business, which is now called Pizza Haus, and moved to their current location. The bakery continues to supply hoagies and pizza dough to the restaurant.
Every since the 1970s, Schmidt Bakery has been known to make Cherry Thing-A-Lings during President’s Day weekend. Originally they did it on Sunday, but because the demand was so high they expanded it to Thursday through Monday.
Where did the hype come from?
“It didn’t get really popular until the 90s,” Todd said. “We only did maybe 50 dozen, 100 dozen in those days.”
The hype grew when their parents went to a function in Oldenburg, a town nearby, and there was a reporter from an Ohio TV station there as the MC for the event. Schmidt and his wife, Bertie, gave the woman a box of Cherry Thing-A-Lings and she talked about them on-air. Ever since then, “it snowballed from there,” Todd said.
Around the same time Schmidt Bakery was also featured on the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
What is a Cherry Thing-A-Ling?
So what is a Cherry Thing-A-Ling? It’s a warm, gooey, crispy-type fritter. The sisters said they take donut mix and add real cherries to it. The dough goes into a proof box where it rises and then they fry it and top it with cherry glaze.
They said their dad found a recipe for Cherry Thing-A-Lings on the back of cherry flavoring they used at the bakery and after tweaking the recipe, he made it their own. The idea of having a cherry-flavored item during President’s Day weekend commemorates the story of George Washington cutting down a cherry tree.
“It’s unique. It’s only once a year,” Todd said. “It’s not something most people have ever tried.”
She mentioned people that typically do not like cherries, tend to like Cherry Thing-A-Lings.
Last year, the bakery made 232,380 donuts (19,365 dozen).
“I think a lot of it is they’re coming back to a hometown, even if it’s not their hometown, they’re coming to our quaint little town and sometimes they stand in line, sometimes they don’t, but they meet other people while they’re here. They get to explore our small little town and they get a hot donut in the process,” Todd said. “People like a hot donut.”
Preparing for President’s Day weekend
The family calls in extra people to help during those five days including several that take-off work from their regular jobs to be part of this event.
“We run 24 hours a day for those five days,” Todd said. “We don’t stop. We have two 12-hour shifts.”
In addition to walk-in sales, the bakery offers online ordering/shipping of their Cherry Thing-A-Lings for Feb. 12, 13 and 20. The owners limited capacity to 500 dozen per day and have already sold out. Todd said most of the shipping labels indicate that orders were placed from Ohio.
For those that got them shipped, all you have to do is microwave the Cherry Thing-A-Ling for about five seconds and they will taste as good as they do the day of.
Other ways the bakery prepares for President’s Day weekend is making sure they do equipment repairs ahead of time and keeping an eye on pricing year round.
The owners have decided to not offer regular donuts on Saturday to help with the line of those wanting Cherry Thing-A-Lings. Lines may be from 15 minutes to three hours long depending on how many people come out. Todd said she has heard of someone driving all the way from Arizona for Cherry Thing-A-Lings.
Even though it’s a whirlwind of a week, the sisters said they enjoy seeing and talking to the people that come back each year for Cherry-Thing-A-Lings. They said it feels good to provide their customers with a product that they get so excited about.
Cherry-Thing-A-Lings will be available 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 through Monday, Feb 19. The owners said the best time to come is Thursday before 7 a.m., Sunday before 9 a.m. and sometimes even Monday morning.
The town is planning to have a courtesy tenet on Saturday and Sunday handing out hot chocolate and coffee to those that are waiting in line. They also will have goodie bags highlighting businesses around town, Puente said.
A box of a dozen Cherry-Thing-A-Lings is $20. The bakery also has a new t-shirt with the saying, “Have you had your Schmidt today?” and a life-size cutout of Schmidt for photos. For more information, visit www.schmidtbakery.com or the bakery’s Facebook page.