McFarlan Bake Shop: 90+ Years on Main Street - TribPapers

McFarlan Bake Shop: 90+ Years on Main Street

It takes an artist to decorate these adorable cookies for Easter, which have all been done by hand.

Hendersonville – Michael and Kathy Cole have been offering the residents of Hendersonville some delicious bakery and pastry items, for a very long time now. These “yummy” breads, cakes and pastries are all made from scratch, from ole-time recipes with the best ingredients, just like old timers did years ago. They are beautifully decorated and appealing.  

McFarlan has been on Main Street since 1930, first across the street and now in its present location at 309 North Main Street. In 1952 Michael’s father bought the business from Earl McFarlan which was located across the street and in 1962 moved in the current location. As a young man, he helped his father and tackled every job—washing dishes, organizing the showcases, scrubbing floors, and dealing with customers. Early on he learned how much was involved in running a bakery. He learned from the ground up. 

After his father sold the business in 1974 to Arthur Rubin, Michael Cole still felt a calling to be in the bakery business. He had learned from the best, the old-timers who really knew what they were doing, he wanted to follow in their footsteps. He bought the bakery back in 1994 from Strossner Baking Company in Greenville, SC, and it has been flourishing ever since.

Today despite the pandemic, customers flock to the store. Michael notes that “this is turning out to be the best year in our history.”  A line forms early in the morning, so customers can start the day off right with a delicious hot donut. Some love the chocolate frosted glazed donut, others stick to just a glazed one—all warm and delicious as it melts in your mouth. Sometimes by 7:00 am the crowd even has to wind around the corner before the doors open. This is a bakery that overflows with an abundance of choice, traditional American pastries and friendly staff. People drive up all the way from Charleston to buy a supply of cinnamon rolls, which they will take home and freeze for later use. Others rant about the heavenly rum cake; while others love the just-right-texture-to-chew almond macaroons. All the pastries are beautifully presented in the various showcases, and with 23 to 28 employees depending on the season, there is someone at the counter to fill your order.

Michael Cole feels strongly “that God has chosen to bless the business, and I try to listen to Him. I truly try to hear Him. I am doing what I have been called to do.” I believe that “if you honor God, He will honor you.” Michael thinks there are three basic things that have contributed to making his business successful, over and above just plain hard work. 1) Make sure the showcases are full, 2) Make sure that everything is fresh, and 3) treat people like you want to be treated.”

McFarlan has always used the old-timey recipes, he continued. No shortcuts are taken, with all that is involved, which can often be time-consuming. For instance, take our Salt Rising bread. “There is nothing more delicious toasted with butter.” The recipe for this American bread is made from an yeast based on an 18th-century recipe for early settlers. This takes two days to make. Putting the dough on a bed of rock salt was a way for the settlers, to get the sponge to rise since at that time there was no electricity. So no, the bread is not laden with salt as one might think, but it is a welcome taste from the past to be enjoyed today.  

Specialties items for an occasion are made continuously. With Easter around the corner, they will have hot cross buns and a wide variety of adorable Easter cookies that are beautifully decorated by Carolyn Goins, an artist who decorates each cookie one at a time. There are fanciful little bunnies, Easter eggs, Moo cows, and shamrocks who have been lovingly brought to life with sugar dough and cut to an appropriate shape. 

During the Hendersonville Apple Festival, McFarlan offers their customers every type of baked pastry — apple fritters, apple turnovers, apple and spice loaves, apple strudels, apple pies, apple muffins, apple cobblers and apple Danishes. In the past, McFarlan was doing more than a hundred wedding cakes a year, but recently they have decided to step back from making wedding cakes. For other occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries, one can order a beautifully decorated cake with a wide choice of batter, filling, and icing for your loved one.

So if you haven’t had a chance to stop in at 309 North Main Street in Hendersonville to sample some delicious authentic American baking, now is the time to do so. As they say on their website: “McFarlan Bakery is an authentic ‘made from scratch’ bakery, one of only a few left in America today. 

Modern technology and shortcuts are the answer in some industries but when it comes to baking; we believe in using good old-fashioned, proved methods and recipes. McFarlan uses and will continue to use the same recipes the ‘ole timers’ have used at this bakery for over 90 years.” Indeed McFarlan has been given numerous awards over the years for best dessert, best doughnuts, best bakery. You will be sure to find something you will enjoy.

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