Ask McGehee: What ever happened to the old Malbis bakery?

The Malbis Bakery, although owned by Jason Malbis, was never actually located in the Baldwin County town.

In the early 1920s, Jason Malbis crossed the Bay to establish his Metropolitan Restaurant in downtown Mobile. He also bought the Yuille Bakery, which had operated on Government Street since the 1830s. Malbis Bakery was incorporated in 1925.

A year later, the bakery moved to larger quarters on South Broad Street just beyond South Carolina Street. An adjoining railway spur on the south side of the property connected the building to the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad tracks, which still cross Broad Street today.

Malbis constructed an impressive brick building designed to compete with Smith’s Bakery on Dauphin Street. In addition to the most modern equipment available, Malbis included an on-site restaurant for the convenience of his 400 employees.

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 In addition to bread, the bakery made an array of cakes, cookies and even saltine crackers.

Serving an area some 60 miles in radius, Malbis Bakery also supplied baked goods to numerous Southern states. In its heyday, the facility had equipment capable of producing 100, 000 pounds of bread a day as well as 85, 000 pounds of cookies and crackers. A fleet of 50 trucks delivered products to wholesale customers in the area.

Jason Malbis died in 1942, and the plant was sold in 1956. The new owners maintained the name and modernized the plant, adding three bins, each capable of holding 100, 000 pounds of flour, which was delivered by railcar. A state-of-the-art conveyor belt transported freshly baked loaves to wrapping machines, delivered them onto trays, and carried them out to waiting trucks. The firm proudly promoted that their product never came in contact with a human hand.

In the early 1970s, the plant was sold to archrival Smith’s Bakery, which in turn sold it to the Colonial Baking Company. In 1978, that firm opted for a new plant on Dauphin Island Parkway, and the Malbis Bakery building was sold.

The old bakery was converted into a furniture warehouse and mattress factory. A fire broke out there in August of 1980 and erupted into one of the worst fires in Mobile’s recent history.

More than 200 firemen battled the blaze for hours, and 26 ended up hospitalized with heat-related symptoms. Explosions erupted within the structure, shattering windows and sending debris into the street. The landmark Malbis Bakery sign, which had never been removed, crashed to the sidewalk.

When the smoke cleared, the entire building was gone. Today, a nondescript metal warehouse fills the site where 400 Mobilians once produced bread, cakes, crackers and cookies.

text by Tom McGehee

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