Van de Kamp's was founded in 1915 by Theodore Van de Kamp and Lawrence L. Frank, beginning as a potato chip stand in downtown Los Angeles. In 1921 the first retail bakery store opened in a building designed in the shape of a windmill. Since this old postcard depicts "Windmill Store No. 1" it is fairly safe to assume that this is that first retail bakery store.
The best article I found about Van de Kamp's was published on July 17, 2005, in the Los Angeles Times. Titled Windmills and Pastry: A Sweet Old Family Recipe, if you find the old postcard fascinating and want to know more I recommend reading the three-page article. For those without time or inclination to do so, here are some key paragraphs:
Its blue windmills swirled like giant propellers over a chain of bakeries, coffee shops and a drive-in as the sweet aroma of freshly baked pastries wafted over the city. For more than three-quarters of a century, Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakery fused Old World recipes with New World commerce, helping to create the neighborhood known as the city's breadbasket. All that remains of the giant landmark in Glassell Park are its quaint two-story facade and two smaller buildings, squeezed between the Glendale Freeway and Metrolink tracks. Built in 1931 to evoke a gargantuan 16th century Dutch town house, the facade stands as a tribute to pioneers in the Southern California food industry. . .
. . . Hailed as the "Taj Mahal of bakeries," Van de Kamp's was founded in 1915 by Theodore Van de Kamp and Lawrence L. Frank, uncles of former California Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp. They parlayed a $200 investment and one product -- potato chips -- into a fragrant food empire. . .
. . . Lawrence Frank's future bride, Henrietta "Nettie" Van de Kamp, whose family also hailed from Milwaukee, followed him west; they married in 1913. . .
. . . Nettie's brother, Theodore, arrived for a visit a couple of years later, looking for a business opportunity. Hitting on the idea of selling the chips that Ralph Frank made, the brothers-in-law formed a partnership. Using the Van de Kamp name, they opened their first store Jan. 6, 1915. . .
Frank had reasoned that the name would be memorable and its Dutch heritage would connote cleanliness and freshness. They underlined that idea with their motto: "Made Clean, Kept Clean, Sold Clean.". . .
. . . In 1921, Van de Kamp's set up the first of its little prefab Dutch windmills in a lot near Beverly Boulevard and Western Avenue. There, they sold cakes, pies and Danishes, a list that eventually included 140 products. . .
. . . Van de Kamp's windmills were designed to catch the eye of passing motorists in what was becoming a car culture. The theme bakeries continued to multiply across the Southland and along the Washington and Oregon coasts. . .
. . . Just one of the familiar windmills survives. Now stationary and green rather than blue, it adorns a Denny's in Arcadia.
The article gives information about the planned use for the saved facade of the headquarters building that recently changed. The plans for this building have run an interesting course that you can follow, if you choose, below:
- Press Release in 2005 Historic Van de Kamp's building escapes demolition
- Curbed LA report with photo of building facade - College Kids Won't be Headed to Van de Kamp Bakery - dated May 7, 2009.
- Heritage Square Museum blog featured a post dated July 13, 2009
- Los Angeles Times report dated July 15, 2009
[The Van de Kamp's brand is now owned by Pinnacle Food Group LLC that says, "Today, the Van de Kamp’s tradition lives on, as we continue to make great-tasting, convenient and affordable seafood for a family dinner everyone can enjoy."]
Old Van de Kamp's Bakery recipes courtesy of Uncle Phaedrus, Consulting Detective and Finder of Lost Recipes
photo via Flickr