|Headquarters||Culver City, California, U.S.|
In 1926, Paul Helms of New York took an early retirement for health reasons and moved his family to Southern California and its mild climate. Helms started construction on a building between Washington and Venice Boulevards in 1930 and, on March 2, 1931, the Helms Bakery opened with 32 employees and 11 delivery coaches (trucks).
By the next year, the Helms Bakery had become the "official baker" of the 1932 Summer Olympics when Paul Helms won a contract to supply bread for the 1932 games in Los Angeles. His slogan was "Olympic Games Bakers - Choice of Olympic Champions." Four years later in time for the 1936 Summer Olympics Germany asked Helms for his bread recipes to feed to the German Olympic team. His relationship with Olympians continued in later years, the U.S. teams at London and Helsinki requested his bread be served. Early Helms vehicles sported the Olympic symbol, and it also appeared on, and was mentioned in, the Helms logo on the bread wrappers, the company logo and sign.
Despite never being sold in stores, Helms baked products soon became known to millions of consumers. The Helms motto was "Daily at Your Door" and every weekday morning, from both the Culver City facility and a second Helms Bakery site in Montebello, dozens of Helms trucks, painted in a unique two-tone scheme, would leave the bakery for various parts of the Los Angeles Basin, some going as far as the eastern San Gabriel Valley. This is remarkable because the network of freeways had not yet been built, so the trip might take an hour or more. One of these trucks is on display at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, while another is on display at the Lyon Air Museum, in Santa Ana.
Each truck would travel through its assigned neighborhoods, with the driver periodically pulling (twice) on a large handle which sounded a distinctive whistle or stop at a house where a Helms sign, a blue placard with an "H" on it, was displayed in their windows. Customers would come out and wave the truck down, or sometimes chase the trucks to adjacent streets. Wooden drawers in the back of the truck were stocked with fresh donuts, cookies, pastries and candies, while the center section of the truck carried dozens of loaves of freshly baked bread. Products often reached the buyers still warm from the oven. Helms trucks were manufactured by Divco, an example of which may be found at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Helms' Divco trucks were powered by various engines, including motors purchased from Nash and Studebaker.
Paul Helms died on January 5, 1957 at age 67, but the business continued to operate, run by family members. Its delivery network gradually grew to include Fresno to the north; San Bernardino to the east, and south to Orange County and San Diego. In the company's final year of operation, a clever marketing campaign netted Helms a contract to furnish "the first bread on the moon," via the Apollo 11 space mission. The San Bernardino facility was located on the northeast corner of Mt Vernon Avenue and Birch Street. After Helm Bakeries closed that location, it was taken over as a small warehouse by FEDCO Corporation, which has since gone out of business as well. The building in San Bernardino is still there, housing a mattress and home furnishings business.
However popular, the Helms method of neighborhood delivery was doomed both by the expense of sending trucks hundreds of miles each week and by the advent of the supermarket, which stocked products from other (less expensive) bakeries, which delivered once or twice each week. The Helms company ceased operations in 1969.
The former Helms Bakery building has been re-purposed into a warren of furniture showrooms, art galleries, restaurants and other retail outlets including the famed but now closed Jazz Bakery, as well as a Helms Museum, the Gascon Theatre and the La Dijonaise restaurant.
Other retail stores now located at the Helms Bakery District include: Alan Desk, ADP, Ashely Furniture, Boom Design, Creative Galleries, Hastens Beds, H.D. Buttercup, Jaxon, La Bella Cosa, Plummers, Rejuvenation, The Rug Warehouse, Style de Vie, Thos. Moser Cabinetmaker, Twenty Gauge, Vitra and Wall Units.
The facility is partly powered by solar energy as well as having free charging stations for electric vehicles.
There is now a Helms Bakery Collectors Club, established as a resource for Helms fans to obtain literature, memorabilia and even Helms Coaches.
- "Hoy-Hermenet Web Site". Hoy-Hermenet Home Page. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- Jares, Joe (September 7, 1970). "A Baker's Dream Needs Dough". Sports illustrated.
- The Helms Bakery: A Culver City Landmark Since the 1930s
- "GlamAmor at the Helms Design District Vintage Boutique on Saturday!". Glamamor. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- "Lyon Museum Helms Bakery Truck". Lyon Museum. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- "The Petersen Automotive Museum - Classic Life". Custom Classic Trucks. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- William-Ross, Lindsay. "The Helms Bakery Coaches". LAistory. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- Culver City History - Section 23: The Helms Bakeries
- Los Angeles Times
- Let's Be Frank
- "Father's office II on Opening Night". LAist. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- Helms Bakery District website
- The Jazz Bakery website
- Helms Bakery by Frank J. Leskovitz
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