September 22, 2017
The cake had to have shamrocks, but I didn't want it to look like something served at a St. Patrick's Day beer bash. This was a wedding cake for a bride about to get an Irish last name, and it had to be perfect. Only one baker in town said, "I understand completely what you're asking for."
And so I remember walking into our reception hall back in 1992 and seeing this: A three-level cake with white icing, white flowers and a cascade of shamrocks connecting the layers. To me, the cake looked as if St. Patrick himself had picked those shamrocks off the Emerald Isle and strewn them in a whisp of goodwill for a young couple.
And on its top not a bride and groom, but a gold Claddagh, a symbol of love, loyalty and friendship, engraved with "Tom & Leslie, 6-27-92."
Lubeley's, a German bakery, delivered my Irish wedding cake. Lubeley's always delivered exactly what a bride wanted.
And because of that cake, Lubeley's, a mainstay on Watson Road in Marlborough, became my go-to bakery: pies on Thanksgiving, birthday and First Communion cakes, a quick stop after work because it was on the way home and whatever you bought would be met with a smile.
Which is why this news hit particularly hard: After 80 years baking for St. Louis, Lubeley's is closing its doors for good on Saturday, Sept. 30.
"It's a very demanding business," Helen Lubeley-Murray told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We don't have a third generation to take it over, which is not uncommon in mom-and-pop businesses."
There we go again, losing a part of our culture. I'm as guilty as everyone else of buying donuts from a grocery store or, in recent years, cakes from the club stores. But retail is changing, and with it, we're losing some real connections: A smile behind a counter, a baker who knows exactly what you need.
When the news broke Tuesday, I had to stop in. Me, and about 20 other patrons in the 5 o'clock hour dropping by after work to buy some of the magic one last time.
"I had to come in after hearing the news," the woman next to me in line said. We both wandered around the store with numbers in hand, waiting patiently for them to be called but, for once, hoping for a little more time.
I bought way too much for a Tuesday in September, but then again, I typically overbought at Lubeley's. That's why we have freezers.
I paid my money and chatted with the young girl behind the counter.
"Will you be having a party or anything to celebrate the last day?" I asked.
"Not that I know of," she said. "I think it'll be a typical Saturday.
"And then we'll just close."