Dutch Maid Bakery is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week. For many Dorchester residents, the bakery has gone unnoticed, tucked away in the Alsen Mapes Industrial Park in Fields Corner. However, many residents have probably bought a Dutch Maid product in the local supermarket to celebrate a birthday or special occasion.
Since 1978, the wholesale bakery operation has been baking and frosting cakes that appear in local supermarkets across Massachusetts and the eastern parts of the country, and for the last 18 years, Dutch Maid has been baking in Dorchester.
When it comes to baking, Dutch Maid Bakery knows cake. Golden cake, chocolate cake, fudge cake, carrot cake, Oreo cake - all the cakes made on the premises are baked fresh daily and are similar to homemade. Focusing only on cake products, the company has perfected their home-style recipes to service the retail demand of small bakery shops and large supermarket chains. The cakes are baked, frosted, hand-decorated and boxed on site. They are then shipped out to supermarkets and stores, where the retailer will sell them in the bakery section as birthday cakes, holiday cakes and special occasion cakes. As more and more customers have less time to make cakes themselves, the demand for Dutch Maid's cakes continues to grow.
"We're able to give a homemade approach to the product that people recognize," Joseph Pearson, company treasurer and vice president of operations, said. "Hopefully we will keep evolving. We are slowly growing, and we are looking to have a little fun and enjoy what we're doing too."
Abram Blanken, who immigrated to the United States from Holland in the 1950s, founded the family owned and operated Dutch Maid Bakery. Fulfilling his American dream, and following in the steps of his mother's traditional recipes, Mr. Blanken created the large-scale bakery operation that is run by his two sons, Gary and John Blanken, and son-in-law, Joseph Pearson, today.
Pearson has a background in mechanical engineering and runs the hardware of the business. John Blanken has a bakery science background, focusing on product development, and Gary Blanken directs sales and human resources.
The original facility was a small rented building on Massachusetts Avenue, by the old City Hospital. As the business grew, Dutch Maid needed more space, and in 1984 the company began to research relocating to a plant in the city.
With the help of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Dutch Maid found its new home at 50 Park Street, in the Alsen Mapes Industrial Park in Fields Corner. The bakery plant was finished in January 1985. As supermarket demands for pre-made cakes to sell to their customers increased, Dutch Maid once again hit a growth spurt. In 1989, they doubled their space and added an additional building to the site. In 1994, an adjacent company in the industrial park moved, and Dutch Maid took the opportunity to purchase the land and build an addition, which was finished in 1995.
Today, the facility encompasses a total of 60,000 square feet - but not for long. In 2001, they acquired more land and are currently in the process of adding another 60,000 of square feet. The latest venture will be finished in August of this year.
"The key for us is that we love being in Dorchester," Pearson, company treasurer and vice president of operations, said. "It's been a really nice experience and the work force has been great."
The Hanover native said he enjoys having a multi-cultural work force that reflects the diversity of the city, with many local employees from the Vietnamese and Hispanic communities.
"The location is ideal, located right next to Interstate 93," he said, noting that many of his employees ride their bicycles or walk to work everyday.
Ninety percent of the 160 employees are local, Pearson said, adding that he also uses a temporary employment agency in order to avoid layoffs during the slow season.
"We made a commitment to the family business and to invest our money and resources to staying in Dorchester," Pearson said. "The neighborhood's been great and everyone's been understanding."
Pearson praised the city's Back Streets Program for helping Dutch Maid grow. "Mayor Menino has kept things on the right track for small businesses," Pearson said. "It's very important to employ locals and literally, the back streets is where we are."
The Back Streets Program was created to help small to mid-size businesses thrive in the city. The program offers training and resources to small business owners, helping them to stay competitive in the city.
Initially, Dutch Maid started out renting its land from the BRA. Over the years, the bakery bought pieces of land from them
"We're not Gillette or one of the big hotels," he noted. "People like me are in the retail business."
"The program's done a great job to help make that happen. Back Streets provided great interface and resources."