Our bakery has always been a family affair. Eighty years after two sisters started the business, we live on today, led by father and son.
1938 saw two sisters from Chicago, Nona MacKenzie and Blanche Rosenberger, open shop in their farmhouse five miles south of South Haven, Michigan. During WWII, they shared retail space with a downtown supermarket, burnishing a reputation for delicious baked goods. Within ten years, the business relocated to 315 Center Street, bringing aboard Nona’s retired Naval son, Gerald.
Enter Donald Braschler. During the summer of 1951, at the ripe age of 15, Don began his career as a clean-up boy for the sisters. Working twelve hour days, Don’s tireless work ethic made an impression on Mrs. MacKenzie. After graduation, Don took his love of baking to Minnesota, enrolling in Baker’s School at Dunwoody Institute. In many ways akin to a laboratory, Don studied all aspects of running a retail bakery, from understanding the subtleties of ingredients to decorating multi-tiered wedding cakes. Upon returning to his hometown, Don became co-owner with Gerald and assumed the day-to-day management of the operation.
As demand for their quality products grew, the bake shop was soon running out of production space. After negotiating for the property that once housed the Model Theatre, Mackenzie’s moved to the center of town on Phoenix Street, just one block up the hill from Lake Michigan. The new plant underwent an ambitious remodeling effort that tripled the production space and took full advantage of the 18-foot tall ceilings originally built for the big screen.
Don and Gerald would enjoy 22 prosperous years as business partners. During that period, the company bought the hardware store next door and converted the space into an 80-seat café to complement the retail bakery. In the late 1970s, Gerald began devoting more of his efforts to his children’s emerging entity, MacKenzie’s Bakery in Kalamazoo, located forty miles to the east. He ultimately sold his interest in the business to Don’s son, David, who worked his first summer at the bakery at age 14.
Together, father and son renamed the business to the iconic South Haven store seen today: The Golden Brown Bakery. Don, the clean-up boy turned co-owner, would spend another two decades running the business before his “part-time” retirement. Even at eighty-one years old, Don still stops in and helps out his son on a daily basis.
Today we operate out of our South Haven facility. We invite you to see what we’ve been making and baking for eighty years and counting!