From: Cook's Exchange chippewa.com
CATHERINE MURRAY For the State Journal Dec 6, 2017
Time to get serious about holidays
Believe it or not, it’s time to get serious about another holiday season approaching when thoughtful gifts are exchanged from lists that seem to grow by the hour. Many lists usually begin with family, what they want or need, toys for the little ones, can’t-live-without-items youngsters and teens drop hints about on a daily basis, clever ideas about those who seem to have everything in life, and old timers who claim they don’t need one more thing in life except good health. Last, but not least, my list begins by making a donation to the Empty Stocking Club in memory of Mother and Daddy.
Edibles are also important, especially sweet tooth favorites that seem to disappear overnight. And due to being on a good friend’s homemade fruit cake list, it relieves me from preparing my own ahead of time to be wrapped for weeks on end in liqueur-soaked cheese cloth before the big day arrives. Fruit cake will forever remain a seasonal treat for me since I was a youngster and discovered where Mother hid the Jane Parker fruit cake she brought home from a nearby A&P grocery store. Years later, when it disappeared from markets everywhere, I was forced to move on to fruitcakes baked by other companies and somehow survived. The good news this year is that Jane Parker fruitcakes have returned as a holiday favorite and in the meantime I’ll devour every inch of the fruitcake my friend treated me to, again, with a smile and from the bottom of his heart.
For more information or to order Jane Parker fruitcakes, go to www.janeparker.com.
The Return of Jane Parker
Steve Gordon | November 15, 2017
Chances are, not too many years back, there was an A&P store in your home town.
A&P, also known as the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, was as well known and popular then as Walmart stores are today.
Actually, they were a great influence on the development of Walmart stores as we know them today. A&P changed the way folks shopped for groceries by becoming the community grocer that offered almost all of your grocery needs in one location.
Before them, you would buy canned goods at one store, meats from a local butcher, bread and cakes from a local baker, fresh produce and fruits from yet another store. You actually visited separate locations to fulfill your grocery needs. Imagine that.
From 1915 to 1975, A&P was the largest grocery retailer in the United States. In 1930, they were the worlds largest retailer with over 16,000 stores. However, they began to decline in the early 1950’s and the last few remaining stores were either sold or closed by the end of 2015.
A&P was the originator of the private label products as we know them today. They bought up bakeries, roasters and other large companies to produce their own private brand of products that were then sold in all of their own stores.
Names such as Eight O’Clock Coffee, Quaker Maid, Ann Page, Our Own Tea, Grandmother’s, Marvel and Jane Parker became household favorites around the country.
Jane Parker was one of the bakery items that A&P produced and became well known for their Classic and Dark brands of Fruit Cake.
At one time, A&P operated 37 of their own bakery plants and became America’s largest baker. However, the bakery division was closed during company restructuring during 1981-1982.
Jane Parker Fruit Cakes were later produced in Canada, and were still made available in the remaining stores and eventually available for order online up until around 2014-2015.
Following the final closing and sale of the remaining stores, the Jane Parker Fruit Cakes were no longer made and available. A staple of the American families holiday tradition were thought to be gone for good.
My brother worked for our local A&P stores from 1960 to 1973. He was promoted to Produce Manager shortly after going to work for them, then pulled a few years in the Army.
After the Army, he returned to A&P and became a store Manager around 1969 working their store in the Siler City, North Carolina area from 1969 until he left in 1973.
On a side note, Francis Bavier who played Aunt Bee on the Andy Griffith Show during it’s years on television, moved to Siler City after the show ended and shopped his store on occasion. But, that’s a story for another time.
My brother remembers the Jane Parker Fruit Cakes very well.
He also remembers another A&P bakery favorite known as the Spanish Bar Cake.
He was very kind in telling me the cake was pretty good, but that it wasn’t “exactly” the Spanish Bar Cake he remembered from his years at A&P. I tried though, and I have a reason for mentioning it here.
It was the Spanish Bar Cake recipe that caught the attention of Chris Ronacher.
Chris sent me an email saying that he and his brother had just recently purchased the domain, trademarks, rights and recipes of the Jane Parker brand at an auction of the remaining A&P properties.
Chris and his brother Alex from New York, have started producing both of the famous Jane Parker Fruit Cakes – using the ORIGINAL RECIPE – and now have them available for order online.
In years past, the brothers had bought the cakes in bulk to sell on their Online Candy Shop .
When the cakes were no longer being made, and the rights and recipes were placed up for auction, the Ronacher brothers purchased them so they could bring the brand back to life.
Chris contacted me via email to tell me this news. I was both surprised and delighted to hear from him.
That’s how I came to learn that the Jane Parker Fruit Cakes… ARE BACK.
One is the Classic Fruit Cake (left) and the other is the Dark Fruit Cake (right)
These are the 16oz. cakes. They also offer the 32oz, 48oz, and 72oz. versions. Some are even available in special holiday tins that will make perfect gifts for Christmas for anyone that might have enjoyed these Fruit Cakes in years past.
This is the Classic cake. As they advertise and as you can clearly see, the cakes have “Over 2/3 Fruit & Nuts.” The cake is filled with Raisins, Glace Red Cherries, Glace Pineapple, Orange Peel, and lots of Pecans.
Did I mention the cakes are now being made here in the USA?
I liked the taste of this cake. It was a good mixture of cake to nuts and fruits. I think fruit cakes in general get a bad rap because they seem to have an old dry cake mixture with lots of gummy candied fruit pieces. Not the case with this Jane Parker Classic.
The cakes tasted very fresh and were nice and moist in my opinion. Chris told me they had just received their 2017 cakes a few days before he contacted me, so that’s pretty fresh.
With all the ingredients that I mentioned above, this Dark Cake also contains Brown Sugar and Molasses which gives it the dark texture and taste.
Upon first trying the cakes, I liked the Dark Fruit Cake best. This one had more of a nostalgic and old fashioned taste to me I think. I’m sure that’s because of my growing up with Molasses being on the kitchen table on a regular basis.
Mama baked her Buttermilk Biscuits often, which we’d use our finger to punch a hole in the side so we could drizzle in some Molasses. The taste brings back memories for me.
Look at that layer of Pecans on the top of the cake. Looks good doesn’t it?
It’s no wonder they call these “America’s Favorite.” One can only wonder how many were sold over the years at all those A&P stores across the country.
I’m sure either you, your parents, and probably your grandparents had one about every Christmas. It was a family tradition, and it will become a family tradition once again thanks to Chris and Alex Ronacher bringing it back.
I’m pretty sure you can think of someone that would love to see an Original Jane Parker Fruit Cake under their tree this holiday season. By “original” I’m referring to the fact that these are made using the Original recipe that they were first made with. How cool is that?
My brother told me he fondly remembers stacking huge displays of these fruit cakes at the end of an aisle when he worked for A&P. He said just about everybody bought a Jane Parker Fruit Cake for the holidays. According to him, A&P had lots of excellent products.
He told me that the Southern Division of A&P Stores consisted of 350 stores with headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina during the years that he worked for them. They had a bakery in the Charlotte area as well.
Older brother went on to have several stores of his own after his time with A&P. He spent about 50 years in the grocery business and retired about 10 years ago.
I’ve been blessed to hear many of his stories about those days on many of the road trips we’ve been on together over the past five years or so.
What did he think about these cakes?
“Excellent,” was his response when I asked him. He said he was very pleased with the taste of both of the cakes and with their quality.”
I just couldn’t pin him down as whether he preferred the Classic or the Dark one the best.
Guess that means I’ll need to buy him one of each for Christmas. Smile.
Personally, I think it’s really great that someone has gone to the work and the expense to bring these great flavors of the past to a new generation. I wish the Ronacher brothers all the best.
I would also like to say Thank You to Chris for finding us here on Taste of Southern, for reaching out to us, and for sharing your cakes with me and my brother.
I’d be more than happy to suggest and recommend them to anyone.
I appreciate your trust in my honest evaluation of your products and hope we can work together again.
Be sure to visit www.JaneParker.com and get your order in early. Please note that as of this writing, shipping is included in the price listed on their website.
Thanks for listening, Merry Christmas.
Charlotte Observer Newspaper October 26, 2017:
This cult Christmas food is back . . . and here’s how you can get it
If you’re a Christmas lover of a certain generation, one name will make your eyes light up, and it ain’t “Santa Claus.”
It’s Jane Parker.
Yes, Jane Parker fruit cake lovers, after short supplies, desperate searches and bankruptcy, your beloved Christmas cake is finally back. Two brothers in New York, Chris and Alex Ronacher, have bought the rights to the cake and the recipe and started making it again.
Fruitcake haters may turn up their noses at this news. But truthfully, the Jane Parker fruit cake is, or was, a classic. Made in light and dark versions, it had a high ratio of nuts and candied fruit (not too much of that nasty citron) set in very good cake.
Starting in the 1930s, A&P’s Jane Parker fruit cake was the ultimate, the one thing some people had to have to really feel like it was Christmas. People used to buy them by the dozens to give as gifts. At some point, A&P handed over the line to a bakery in Canada, which kept it alive.
For years, seasonal supplies of the cake turned up all over, often in small food stores and limited supermarket chains, particularly in the South. For food writers, it was an annual call to figure out where the cake was going to be available.
About 15 years ago, I got so curious about the annual stampede that I found a cake so I could write about it. It’s still on my list as one of the two best fruitcakes I’ve ever had. (My favorite is still the N.C.-made Southern Supreme fruitcake, which turns up in some local stores like Reid’s at the holidays.)
Still, supplies of the cake dwindled and it got increasingly hard to find. In 2009, it came back briefly for an anniversary, but in 2014, the company went bankrupt.
“A great iconic brand went down with the ship,” says Alex Ronacher, 41. With his brother Chris, 45, the Ronachers had an online company selling candy and baked goods. They used to buy Jane Parker fruitcakes in bulk and resell them on their website.
In 2016, they discovered that no one had bought the rights to Jane Parker and decided to do it themselves. Originally, the bakery in Canada agreed to go back to making them. When that didn’t work out, the Ronachers found a bakery in the Midwest and finally brought the cake back to the U.S. this year.
They had to make a few changes: The new bakery didn’t have the same size pans, so they had to change the sizes. The files for the original artwork were so old, they couldn’t open them, so they had a friend who’s a graphic artist re-create the logo and labeling.
Other than that, the Ronachers swear, the cake is exactly the same. Maybe a little better, because they’re baking more often in smaller batches, so it will be fresher.
“These are the true, 100-percent, original fruitcakes,” says Alex Ronacher.
One thing isn’t the same: Prices are higher. On the website www.janeparker.com, the only source for the cake, prices range from $24.97 for a 1-pound loaf to $74.97 for a 72-ounce ring cake in a holiday tin.
“Materials have gone up,” Chris Ronacher says. “It’s a high-quality item.” They do throw in the shipping for free, he says: “Fruitcake’s not that light.”
If you want a cake by Thanksgiving or Christmas, the Ronachers say you should order soon. They weren’t sure how much to make, and the old records they inherited were vague on sales figures, so they only made 2,100 for the holidays.
“Order sooner rather than later,” Alex Ronacher says. “We’ve had a tremendous response already.”
A&P’s Jane Parker Brand Returns for Christmas
October 1st, 2017
By Garland Pollard
ASTORIA, QUEENS – After the bankruptcy of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, yearly customers of the company’s Jane Parker fruitcakes were left bereft of their favorite holiday treat. However, two Long Island food entrepreneurs, brothers Alex and Chris Ronacher, have revived the historic brand, which was nearly as famous as A&P’s house brand, Eight O’Clock Coffee.
The cakes were beloved; they were packed, far more than others, with maximum fruit and nuts, and had almost 65 percent non-cake ingredients, including raisins, nuts, orange peel, cherries and pecans. Due to their position at the end aisles of the nation’s largest grocer, they were also the nation’s best-known brand, and only available at A&P.
The Ronachers, entrepreneurs who run an online candy mail order marketplace, the The Online Candy Shop, had become aware of the brand as they did a vigorous business reselling the cakes each Christmas season, buying them in bulk.
Jane Parker Fruitcake during the A&P era.
“We too were upset when it wasn’t available,” said Alex, who has spent roughly the last year putting back the various aspects of the brand, including manufacturing, packaging, marketing and selling. They purchased the brand from the auctioned pieces of A&P, which had been marketed by Hilco Streambank, a company that not only liquidates buildings but also finds new buyers for brands, websites and other intellectual property. The brand was listed for sale last fall, among other assets of A&P. In total, they expect to accomplish the brand re-launch for less than $100,000, a bargain for such an iconic piece of American food history.
The cakes were so important to the overall image of A&P that they were advertised as specialty products in magazines. They echoed the spice trade and clipper ship image of A&P, which was once the nation’s larger grocer. A&P promised that “you’d delight the family with this special treat.”
“Sugar ‘n spice, ‘n’ everything nice! – that’s what Jane Parker Fruit Cakes are made of! No place is too far to go, no price too high to pay for the rare fruits, nuts, sugars, and spices which make Jane Parker Fruit Cakes such festive favorites…such a welcome addition to the Holiday menu.”
The brothers are running Jane Parker as a standalone business, one they hope to expand to other products in later years. Right now, they are focused on getting what was right about the fruitcakes back, piecing the company back together. The process was much more difficult than they expected, even though they knew what was right about the product, and were well-familiar with it as a retailer.
The Jane Parker brand is larger than just the holiday fruit cakes. Jane Parker was the A&P bakery brand, and it had a giant bakery that was located just across the World’s Fair site in Flushing Meadows, Queens. N.Y. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses had the company turn off the sign during the World’s Fair; it appears in many photos of the fair and the site is now a Home Depot.
“When you want to try to recreate something,” said Alex Ronacher, “it’s detective work to find out the missing pieces.”
Challenges of rebirth
There were dozens of challenges in the restart, beginning with the recipe. They purchased the recipe and all rights. However, when they were sourcing to have it baked, they realized there was a typo in the formula. “It was a switch of a number,” said Alex. “We wanted to make sure we had everything right.”
Where to have the cakes made again was also a challenge. It had been made in Canada, but things changed after the closing. “They didn’t want to bake the fruitcake any more,” said Chris Ronacher. The brothers ended up finding a manufacturer in the U.S., which meant that the product could be advertised as Made in the U.S.A. again.
“They got it exactly right,” said Chris. The company is offering two styles, a classic fruit cake and a dark. The classic fruitcake even comes in a 48 ounce ring in a decorative Christmas tin, with a substantial price of $59.97, which will be shipping beginning this Oct. 11. This puts it in the realm of other specialty holiday cakes sold at places like Nieman-Marcus.
Another challenge was getting the graphics back together. They had to recreate all the packaging, and find new manufacturers for that, as well. “It was very daunting,” said Chris Ronacher, whose family friend graphic artist Ion H assist in recreating the box. Cousin Stephanie Schamban took the photos.
The cake’s last sales were in 2014, so even figuring how much to make for the initial Christmas season was a challenge, as previous runs of the product were for online sales on Amazon, wholesale and at A&P stores. Since the stores were no more, they have had to ratchet back, and will initially just be selling online, and will use the same Amazon channels.
A&P, in its declining years, in 2006 sold off its famed Eight O’Clock coffee brand to India’s Tata for approximately $220 million. Other brands that were well known by A&P, however, were just dropped, and much brand value was lost by the company. That was a great loss; in its heyday, A&P featured its own brands, which were of a high quality and far above many national brands. As the company declined in the 1970s and 80s, its quality suffered, and it dropped house brands as it added many different struggling grocery companies to its lineup.
As part of the deal, the brothers got the Jane Parker web domain back, and have put up a newly designed, stylish janeparker.com website showing the product in handsome photos. After the launch this year, they are looking at expanding to other Jane Parker products.