As a fixture in Starke County for decades, Fingerhut Bakery sparks memories of sweet treats and fresh-from-the-oven donuts for many customers who visit the North Judson, Knox and Bass Lake locations.
“So many people come in on a Saturday in North Judson and say I used to live here and would jump off the bus on the corner by the high school to grab a donut,” says Doug Fingerhut. “There are so many memories … they remember my grandmother selling them butter cookies back in the 1960s.”
The family’s butter cookies are just one of the long-standing family recipes that are still blended up today by the seventh and eighth generations. Today, Doug and his brother, Greg, are co-owners of the bakery working alongside the future generation, which includes Doug’s sons, Neven and Christian, and Greg’s children, Mitch and Morgann. Doug’s wife, Vicki, and Greg’s wife, Val, are also an integral part of the business.
“The next generation is learning the hands-on skills to keep our bakery flourishing in the future,” says Christian, who works on the social media and tech side of the business along with baking, packing and delivering.
Christian says his grandfather, Keith, slowly retired but is still a key component of the family business as well.
“Grandpa and my grandmother, Janet, can be found mingling in the café and still hang out, coming in every morning,” he says.
While the family business traces back to Starke County with the North Judson location being purchased in 1946, the family has been baking for generations and extended family members used to have many locations in the Chicagoland area.
Doug says his grandfather moved to Starke County to become a farmer but returned to his baking roots when the barn was burned down by his young sons. The Knox location was launched in 1978.
“Some of our success is from our longtime employees, including Jane Howard, who has managed our Knox store since it opened 50 years ago,” Greg says. “We have many employees who have been around for 25 to 30 years.”
Today, Doug and Greg continue to mix up their family’s recipes for coffee cakes, chocolate delight cake and butter cookies as well as create specialty cakes, seasonal sweets, paczkis and donuts. Besides the bakery locations, their goodies can be found at various mini-marts, gas stations and supermarkets in the area. The family also has an online bakery site.
“My brother and I come out early to help keep the quality up. When you do it long enough, you can just tell when things aren’t right,” Doug says.
The family continues to adapt to changes, including government regulations and the food photo phenomenon, to stand out in an evolving industry.
“With today’s culture of people taking artsy pictures of food, donuts are getting really big,” Christian says. “We are working to promote through Facebook and Instagram … But we’re still a small-town bakery where our customers are telling us their stories.”
“We just want to keep baking and making memories for people,” adds Doug.
North Judson, Knox and Bass Lake locations