Laub’s leaves legacy

by Leo Jeffres

(Plain Press, October 2005) When Rachelle Sadlon Coyne drops her daughter and son off for school on Lorain Avenue this fall, she’s making a trip her father and grandfather made years ago as the smell of freshly-baked bread greeted passersby.

Now the smell of bread has drifted away from the spot where Anthony and Christine Coyne attend classes, the bakery site now occupied by the Urban Community School that opened its doors last month.

Anthony, age 9, is in the fourth grade, while his sister Christine, age 6, is starting the first grade.  Both of Rachelle Sadlon Coyne’s children look forward to their new gym, a modern science lab, and occasional stops at an ice cream store on their way home from school.

The school site, vacant for several years, most recently was used as a warehouse by Arrow International, Inc., a manufacturer of charitable gaming products, but its illustrious history will always be tied to one of Cleveland’s earliest bakeries for many long-term residents.  

John Gallagher, chief executive officer of Arrow International, and his wife Catherine, donated the site for the school.  

The Jacob Laub Baking Co. was a going concern in the 4900 block of Lorain Ave. more than a century ago.  Jacob Laub and his wife Katherine headed a family business that gradually grew from a small bakery to a large enterprise on the south side of Lorain.  

An immigrant, Laub was born in Germany in 1861, arriving in the United States in 1878 and working as a baker’s apprentice with Jacob Seitz, who had a bakery at 254 Garden Ave. in 1883.  Garden Ave. later became Woodland.  The Laubs also lived at the bakery address.  

According to city directories, Cleveland had 13 bakeries in 1861, but none were on the west side of town until the 1870s.  And in 1888, the site that was to become Laub Bakery on Lorain Ave. was home to a bakery operated by Henry Lange.  

Laub established his own business, baking rye bread rolls and coffee cake in his home at 1981 Lorain Ave. (later 4832 Lorain).  A loan from Samuel H. Halle enabled Laub to expand his operations by 1892.  While maintaining a store and office in his home, he moved the bakery to larger facilities at 1092 (later 4919) Lorain Ave.  

The Jacob Laub Baking Co. was incorporated in 1903 and within 15 years employed 160 people.  Residents in 1903 could call Melrose 4530 to place their Laub Bakery orders, or drop by stand E13 at the West Side Market, which the Laubs also ran.

The Laub Bakery had considerable competition in the city, including such large players as the Cleveland Bakery—National Biscuit Co. at Central and Woodland avenues, and the Ohio Baking Co. at 768 Superior Ave.

The first Laub Bakery building was torn down and replaced with a more modern structure that ran up to the edge of the sidewalk.  Between 1890 and 1918, property records show the bakery slowly expanding, adding a west corner of land in 1903 and an adjacent plot in 1917.  Lorain Court, running east and west behind the bakery between W. 48th and W. 50th streets, was vacated and the growth continued as parcels further south were added and other courtyards vacated during the next couple decades. Lorain Avenue has retained its name, but W. 50th St. replaced Birch St. and W. 49th St. replaced Liberty Ave. when the city changed to a numbered grid in March, 1906.

Meanwhile, another immigrant destined to become a future employee at the Laub Bakery, John Sadlon, was immigrating to Canada.  Born in 1901 in Slovakia, Sadlon made his way to Canada in the 1920s, eventually coming to Cleveland.  

Jacob and Katherine Laub early on lived across the street from the bakery but by the 1930s had moved to Lake Road in Lakewood.  

An ad in the 1935 city directory laid out the Laub’s promise: baked goods that satisfy, for the family, for the restaurant, for the club.

When employees of the bakery went to work in the 1930s, Jacob Kitman, a tailor drew customers across the street, as did an early filling station, which continues today as the home of a used car lot and repair shop on the corner of W. 50th St. and Lorain Ave.     

Laub Bakery was in a busy neighborhood, packed with retailers and services that made it easy for residents that walked rather than drove cars as a routine.  

Neighbors could get a haircut from Lazlo Budai, a barber, buy fruit from Murry Salem, eat at a restaurant run by Ernest Epple, get their furniture upholstered by seeing Paul Sedely, get their carpets cleaned at the National Rug Cleaning Co., have a beer at William and Herman’s Gravel’s place, or contact a set of attorneys named Hoffman, Mahoney, Koenig and Onizchek if they were in trouble with the law.

And this was all within a block of the bakery.  Walking a block east, you could order flowers from a florist, eat at another restaurant or buy an engagement ring from a jeweler.

Jacob Laub presided over the firm until his death in 1942.  He was succeeded as president by his son, Herbert J. Laub, who directed the company until 1964.  

Anthony and Christine Coyne’s great grandfather, John Sadlon, began working at the bakery in the 1950s.  In 1953 the company had 82 home delivery routes and 60 wholesale routes, with 465 employees and annual sales of about $5 million.  The firm merged with the French Baking Co., in 1954 and in 1958 purchased J. Spang Baking Co., adding bakeries in Toledo and Sandusky in 1960.  

John Sadlon’s son, Milton, born in Canada in 1927, joined his father at the bakery in the 1950s to help pay for medical school.  Milton’s daughter, Rachelle Coyne, says she and her sisters remember their visits to the bakery, where they enjoyed the sweet smell of fresh bread as they watched women pounding dough.  

“We got a lot of attention from the bakery workers, and grandpa allowed us to bring home as many bakery goods as we could stuff into a grocery bag,” recalls Rachelle Coyne.  “I remember sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table and eating poppy seed rolls.”    

In 1965 the Laub family sold the baking company to an investor group headed by Edward Strang, but the old plants were too costly to operate and too inefficient to compete with modern competitors. The firm went out of business on Jan. 8, 1974.

John Sadlon died in 1980 and his son Milton died in 1986, but their descendents were to return to the bakery site when it emerged from a year of construction as the Urban Community School.  

Today Anthony and Christine Coyne attend a modern building designed by Cleveland-based Kaczmar Architects, Inc.  The 76,000-square-foot building consists of two interconnected wings, a two-story classroom and an adjoining structure for support facilities.  The 26 modern classrooms incorporate areas specifically designed for music, art and science in addition to facilities for a health clinic, a library, tutors, a speech therapist and a large commons area for student dining.  

The school welcomed students, parents and the community at a neighborhood fiesta Sept. 3.   The new building will serve 450 students but has room to expand and accommodate as many as 600.

The Urban Community School is an independent, ecumenical, non-graded preK-8 school serving children on Cleveland’s near west side.  The school has an annual budget of $2.9 million.  In addition to the donation of land by Gallagher, a $16 million capital campaign was conducted, with $12 million used for the new school and the remaining $4 million placed into the school’s endowment for student scholarships.  This was the first capital campaign in the school’s 38-year history.

The new site allows Urban Community School to consolidate its school on one site. The school moved to the new site from two earlier locations: one campus next to St. Malachi’s Church at the corner of Detroit Ave. and W. 25th Street and one campus on the grounds of St. Wendelin’s Parish on Columbus Road.

Rachelle Coyne remembers her grandfather as an immigrant with a strong work ethic who knew the importance of a good education.  He passed on that philosophy to her father when he worked at the bakery and today she’s hoping those values endure with her children, Anthony and Christine, at the same site.

And, with a little luck, maybe they’ll smell some freshly-baked bread in the school cafeteria now and then and think about their grandfather and great grandfather.


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