The parking lot at Lubeley’s Bakery & Deli was packed Tuesday afternoon after longtime patrons learned the family-owned bakery will be closing on Sept. 30, after 80 years of business.
Some were there to stock up on favorite treats, including a customer who placed an order for three white birthday cakes — pineapple filling, of course — with plans to freeze them for future use.
Others were there to thank the Lubeley family and reminisce.
Co-owner Helen Lubeley-Murray, 67, could barely cross the bakery floor without customers stopping to tell her thank you and offer good wishes.
“It’s a very demanding business,” she told a reporter in between orders. “The holidays are just getting harder and harder, and we just looked at each other and said how long can we do this? We’re the second generation, and we don’t have a third generation to take it over, which is not uncommon in mom-and-pop businesses.”
Lubeley-Murray’s parents, Helen and Ed Lubeley, opened the original bakery in 1937 near Kingshighway and Christy Boulevard. The business changed locations a few times, and after Lubeley-Murray and her brother, Bob Lubeley, took over in 1980, they moved the business to 7815 Watson Road, in Marlborough. Bob Lubeley is now 64.
Helen, the matriarch of the baking family, continued to work well into her 90s, ringing up orders, icing cakes and chatting up customers. In 2009, she told the Post-Dispatch, “If I miss a day, there’ll be a whole group in the next day asking, ‘Helen, what happened to you?’” She died in 2014, at age 101.
Lubeley’s is known for its variety of German-style cakes, danishes, stollens and breads, as well as wedding cakes, themed cookies, holiday goods and doughnuts. On Tuesday, the bakery’s window display featured seven multitier wedding cakes with delicately iced pink roses and ribbons. Inside, boxes of cinnamon sugar cookies and pumpkin bread on display tables were quickly snapped up by shoppers.
At the store and on social media, customers waxed eloquent about the bakery items they’ll miss, from Spingerle cookies to split lemon cake.
Steve Baker, 66, of St. Louis Hills, said his family bought cakes celebrating big events, from confirmations to birthdays, from Lubeley’s for decades, dating to the Kingshighway location.
“They’re like family,” Baker said of bakery’s staff and owners. “They know my name when I come in, and even if they’re busy they take time to talk.”
Once, a customer went home with a cake meant for Baker’s oldest daughter’s first communion, Baker recounted. “Somebody else picked up our cake and Bob stopped what he was doing and made us another cake right away. That’s the kind of people they are.”
Many customers remembered the great pains Lubeley’s staff took to personalize cakes. Ruth Flanagan, 63, of Webster Groves, said when her husband Tom was a cross country coach at St. Louis University High School, she’d leave it to Lubeley’s to create a birthday cake for him served at a barbecue at their home for the athletes every year.
“I never knew what they’d make, and each one was more breathtaking than the last,” Flanagan said, adding one Lubeley’s cake was decorated with runners on a track, depicting all of St. Louis’ Catholic high schools.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Flanagan said of Lubeley’s closure. “We’ve been going there for 40 years, and I’ve never gone to another bakery. We will miss them so dearly. Not just the baked goods and the cakes, we will miss the people.”
Lisa Brown • 314-340-8127
@lisabrownstl on Twitter