A Bakery Shaped by Place: Garic’s Bakery

Stop 5 of 6 on the Trail of Crumbs tour

Often visible in the background of historic images of the French Market, the three-story Italianate building with the “Garic’s Bakery" sign anchored the neighborhood. [1] Garic’s Bakery was once part of a bustling riverfront commercial corridor, closely intertwined with the nearby port and public farmers market, at times even taking on the name “French Market Bakery.” An 1893 newspaper article reported Garic’s bakery among the merchants that offered hurricane relief to the lower coast's oystermen, who traded near the French Market. [2]

Newspaper advertisements throughout the bakery’s existence reflected the busy, diverse, and ever-changing French Quarter neighborhood. The bakery was “always open,” operated 24 hours a day, serviced ships, and supplied loaves of bread and pastries to some of the city’s finest restaurants as well as the people who lived, shopped, and worked in the area. The bakery was referred to as the “French Italian Bakery” (that sold rye bread!) and adapted its products to customer demand. Some of the types of bread baked at Garic's over its almost one-hundred-year existence included hardtack for ships (a long-lasting biscuit that looks like a flat, dimpled disk, a staple since the colonial era), cap bread, French bread, Sicilian St. Joseph's bread, German rye and pumpernickel bread, and French biscuits.

When Lawson Garic opened his namesake bakery in 1885, close to 150 bakeries were listed in the New Orleans City Directory. Garic had previously managed Stiegler Bakery near the Treme Market and was a flour merchant to some of the city’s older bakeries, such as Chretien’s. Just as bakeries reflected the surrounding community's needs, they also had to adapt to outside forces such as sanitary laws and flour shortages. In the early 1900s, health ordinances required bakeries to wrap loaves and adjust loaf size, resulting in the standardization of products. [3] Records show that a rise in ingredients' cost resulted in a 1916 request to renegotiate Garic’s contract to deliver 17,000 pounds of bread a month to Charity hospital. [4] After a few years, Garic left the bakery business to pursue real estate ventures, but family members continued to operate the bakery until 1952. [5]

In the 1930s and 1940s, new challenges, such as industrialization, changing bread styles, and World War II labor shortages appeared. An article from 1933 reveals the growing popularity of "poor boy" loaves and machine-made sliced pan bread versus old-fashioned French bread and the French cap bread. The same article highlights Sterling Garic, a third-generation owner of Garic’s, as the last baker to produce hardtack. [6]

In 1952, the Gaudet family purchased Garic’s bakery and renamed it “Gaudet's French Market Bakery.” A few years later, the family leased the business to German baker Andreas Reising who operated the bakery as “Sunrise French Market Bakery.” In a 1958 Times-Picayune advertisement, Reising described the charm of the old Garic's bakery and its appeal to tourists in the changing French Quarter. Location still mattered, but the clientele had shifted once again – this time away from locals to tourists. He implored locals to follow the example of “visitors from all over the country, with Sunrise French Bread to be carried to their homes” to serve “daily at our table, n’est ce pas?” [7]

Following Sunrise Bakery, another baker, Adam Falkenstein, operated "French Market Bakery” at the site briefly in the early 1970s. In 1981, records show that the Gaudet family estate sold the property. The famous bakery that once served and profited from the busy French Market, port, and surrounding neighborhood transitioned to a gallery and souvenir shop. Garic’s history stands as an enduring testament to a bakery’s power to anchor and serve a community.

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929 Decatur Street, New Orleans, Louisiana