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The snapping of Pratzel's kosher bakery back from the jaws of doom was a feelgood story in the spring of last year. You may recall that a coterie of local businesses agreed to offer free services to the buyer who would keep the ovens burning and save the 100-year-old, beloved bagelry from oblivion. But now, as the Jewish High Holy Days approach, when Pratzel’s Eastgate Bakery would ordinarily be selling challah and desserts like nobody’s business, there is nobody at the business.
About a year ago, Pratzel’s consolidated operations at an industrial park in Olivette. It would seem that Pratzel’s has indeed shuttered, and this time, no deus ex machina is swooping in to save the day.
A source in the bakery department at Straub’s Market in Clayton, which had carried Pratzel’s baked goods, said that Pratzel’s told them “the store was going on vacation for two weeks to do maintenance and cleaning. That was three weeks ago. We called them about our delivery, and they never called back, so one of us went over there [as did we, see right], and there’s mail piled up in the mailbox and paper covering over the windows. It seems like they closed without telling anybody.”
Repeated attempts to reach Pratzel’s owner Jon Mills or anyone else at the bakery have yielded nada.
Falk Harrison, a local brand communications agency, spearheaded the popular drive to save Pratzel’s in 2011. They managed to attract commitments from no less than 24 businesses that agreed to offer their services (social-media support, printing, ad space in magazines, etc.) for free to the buyer who would come forward and take over the bakery. At times the efforts to get the word out about Pratzel’s and the growing pile of “prizes” for the buyer seemed almost as much a test of the power of social media as an effort to save the 98-year-old bakery.
“Our goal was to generate visibility and awareness around the fact that this place was closing,” said Chris Reimer, V.P. of Social Media at Falk Harrison. “If I hadn’t heard about this, then, the question became, who else hadn’t heard about it? The purpose was to get the word out to everybody. Within four days of taking this on in January of 2011, I was doing radio interviews. In March of 2011 we received a call from Jon Mills, and we were so excited we almost passed out.”
By buying Pratzel’s, Mills, a producer of film documentaries, was entitled to the services of those two dozen businesses that had agreed to chip in and give away their work as a carrot for saving the company. But the new owner surprised some of those businesses, said Reimer, by declining their offers.
“Jon [Mills] ended up going a different road, with service providers that he had previous connections with, that I guess he was friends with,” said Reimer. “I speculate it was because he knew others he felt he could lean on. I think we 24 businesses made it clear he could lean on us, but for whatever reason, he pretty much didn’t.”
It’s upsetting to think that what might have been Pratzel’s 100th anniversary will instead be noted with cold ovens in the shuttered bakery at Rosh Hashanah-time, and that the thrilling oomph of the thoroughly modern, award-winning social-media campaign that managed to save a thoroughly old-fashioned business from going under has concluded with a whimper.
Saddest of all: no more upside-down “UFO” chocolate cupcakes.
More as we learn it.