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Koch’s Bakery rolling out Christmas cookies, cakes

Koch’s Bakery has been cooking up homemade German-style recipes — and a reputation for tasty treats — since Feb. 14, 1948. George and Irene Koch, both German immigrants, were the original owners, and their recipes are still used today.

According to owner Barbara Davis, Koch’s Bakery is the oldest bakery in Chattanooga.

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From left are Koch’s Bakery’s Amanda Mason holding a specialty order red velvet cake, Elizabeth Reed holding a German chocolate cake, Cynthia Canion holding an all-butter meltaway cake, and bakery owner Barbara Davis holding a box of thumbprint cookies. The cookies can also be found inside Pruett’s grocery store on Signal Mountain or shipped to customers across the country.

“We did not know anything about the bakery business [when she and her late husband Lyle purchased it in July 1983],” she said. “I knew that Koch’s Bakery must be doing something right to stay in business that long. So we decided to give it a try and we’ve been in business all these years. We use the same recipes that the Koch family did. We bake the old-fashioned way. We do everything from scratch; we even make our own puff pastry dough.”

The from-scratch baking process takes time — and hands; several pairs. Davis’ son, Steve Nichols, arrives at the bakery at 11 p.m. each night to begin baking the next day’s cookies, cakes and doughnuts. Baker Anthony Daniel arrives afterward, at 3 a.m., to continue baking, and Davis comes in daily at 6 a.m. to start baking.

This time of year, the Broad Street establishment’s bakers are rolling out dough to form German Christmas stollens, sugar cookie cutouts, cakes and doughnuts. The special Christmas stollens are made with dough, candied fruit, spices, nuts, raisins, cinnamon and butter.

But Davis said anytime people think about Koch’s Bakery, it is the doughnuts or thumbprint cookies that usually come to mind.

“We sell more thumbprint cookies than anything,” she said, adding that the cookies are sold wholesale to Pruett’s grocery store on Signal Mountain and often shipped to customers in various states across the country.

The Chattanooga Convention Center orders lots of items year-round from Koch’s Bakery, said Davis — sometimes $3,000 to $4,000 worth of lemon bars, sheet cakes and cookies for holiday events. While it is normal to bake 1,000 cookies to take to the center’s events, she said most of her business is from repeat customers entering the store.

“We always have a good variety of doughnuts, cookies, cakes and cupcakes,” said Davis. “Every day we have sour cream doughnuts, chocolate doughnuts, blueberry doughnuts and vanilla doughnuts. We make chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, old-fashioned sugar cookies, ranger cookies, red velvet white chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies and thumbprint cookies.”

A holiday table inside the store holds pound cakes, cookies and also dog treats made of peanut butter and oatmeal. The season’s selection of Christmas sugar cookie cutouts range from Christmas trees to snowmen to snowflakes to stars to Santa Claus.

“Basically it’s just hard work that has kept this business running strong so long,” said Davis, adding that she hopes her son and granddaughter, Candace Nichols, continue the business when she retires. “I’ve always liked to bake. Baking is a science. My husband was very good at managing money and I like being up to my elbows in dough. You have to have a passion with a small business and I’ve always had a passion for baking.”

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