This bakery has sweetened moments in Central Florida’s history for nearly 50 years
Charlie’s Bakery offers sweet sense of community to customers, employees
ORLANDO, Fla. – For almost half a century, an Orlando bakery has been sweetening Central Florida’s taste buds.
Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries, located off Curry Ford Road, has been part of the community since 1971 and has been part of some historical moments.
“They baked the 10th anniversary of the lunar landing cake for NASA,” assistant baker Anthony Adams said.
According to Adams, the 5-by-10-foot cake was made to feed about 5,000 people.
“From what we know, it was one of the only times that they took -- you know, the van that takes the astronauts from the building to the spaceship -- they actually drove that van here to pick up that cake,” Adams said.
The mom and pop bakery was also in charge of making the 70th birthday cake for Lawrence Welk, the host of “The Lawrence Welk Show.”
Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries was founded by Gary Hawk’s father, Charlie, a South Florida native.
“The favorites are European-style pastries, eclairs, napoleons, strawberry cheesecake. We have something for everybody.” Hawk said. “A lot of it is old school but it’s traditional and it’s honestly what the people want.”
Almost 150 desserts, including cream puffs, strudels, and a variety of cakes and pies are made from scratch at the bakery.
Gary is now getting ready for Valentine’s Day, with chocolate-covered strawberries and heart-shaped cakes. Customers like Brian Koehler come in to the bakery almost every day for their cookies.
“All the time. And I buy them for my family, I buy 'em for friends, for holidays,” Koehler said.
To many, it’s a place of fond memories that has received much recognition -- including from the Daily Meal, a national survey that named Charlie’s bakery among the 75 best bakeries in America.
“The best stories is when that mom comes in with their daughter and talks about the fact that we made the wedding cake for their parents,” Adams said. “We hear that every day. Somebody comes in says, ‘Oh, I was here as a child. I’m buying a birthday cake for my son or daughter.’”
For Hawk, it’s all about the ingredients and staying true to his father’s recipes.
“Keeping 'em the same, don’t (go) changing them. Only improving them, if anything,” he said.
But it’s not just the pastries that make the bakery special. The bakers say it’s because Hawk provides a sense of home to the community and his employees.
“Gary will tell you it’s the ingredients, I’ll tell you it’s Gary. So (will) Patty, who’s been here 15 and 1/2 years. He’s had another gentleman that was here,” Adams said. “When you walk in the door, you’re part of our family, too.”
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