Spokane was always a wheat town, anchored by its flouring mills, which supplied several large bakeries. One of the larger bakers was Silver Loaf Baking Co., which had a production plant on the north rim of the Spokane River gorge for almost 40 years.
Silver Loaf first opened in 1927 at Monroe Street and Spofford Avenue. The bakery was started by the the Sheetz brothers from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On opening day, anyone taking a factory tour would receive a free loaf of bread. By 11 a.m., the 5,000 loaves set aside for visitors were gone.
The early days were rocky. The company reorganized with new investors a year after opening. About the same time, a dispute with the bakers union led to a lockout. In the wee hours of Aug. 5, 1929, a dynamite bomb blew apart two of the giant ovens. No one was hurt. Manager L.L. “Les” Francis called it part of the “reign of terror” of union organizers.
Silver Loaf, with new investors Martin Blum and Francis, moved to the 1915 Gray Manufacturing building south of the Spokane County Courthouse in 1935. Silver Loaf installed the first all-electric ovens in town and opened with another free-loaf offer, giving away 16,800 loaves on opening day. The bakery employed 85 workers that year, plus a number of drivers and salesmen.
Silver Loaf boasted the latest equipment, including tunnel ovens for continuous production, machines for slicing bread and producing buns of various kinds. The company produced the Holsum brand of bread, a national brand competing against Wonder Bread.
Over the years, the Sheetz brothers sold out and Francis and his family bought out Blum to became majority owners in 1945. The Francis family ran the company until it was bought out by Interstate Brands of Kansas City, Missouri in 1977.
The plant on the river’s edge was demolished in 1975, but production had already moved to the new plant at N. 110 Fancher Rd. In 1981, Snyder’s Bakery of Yakima purchased Silver Loaf. Snyder’s is now part of the Franz Family Bakeries.
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