Baker Spotlight: Bobby Jucker of Three Brothers Bakery

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For the past 65 years, Three Brothers Bakery has sold a multitude of European baked goods, such as rye bread, challah, Kaiser rolls and danishes, as well as many classic American treats like cupcakes, cakes, cookies and pies. Robert "Bobby" Jucker, son of one of the original three brothers, Sigmund Jucker, now owns and operates Three Brothers Bakery, along with his wife, Janice, and his Aunt Estelle, wife of Sol Jucker, Sigmund's twin brother.

Bobby grew up at the bakery on Braeswood where he would join his father and uncles in the kitchen to learn how to make various breads by hand.

"The first thing I learned was twisting egg rolls, and those are not Chinese egg rolls," Bobby says. "And then I learned how to make bagels by hand. And then once you know how to do that, it's like you're stuck there; you're doing everything now because stuff is getting thrown at you. So you learn how to make French rolls, and you learn how to do all the different breads and learn how to do rye bread and everything else. So, that's kind of how I learned. You just kind of get pushed into it and before you know it..."

His father and uncles would tease him when he came into the kitchen to practice rolling dough. Bobby says one of his uncles would slap him with a piece of dough and say, "That's not how you do it! You do it like this," and would proceed to teach him the proper method. One of his uncles loved to work in the kitchen making bread; it was therapeutic for him.

"You're with your bread and there's nobody else to bother you," Bobby says. "He hated coming out here in the front; he hated it, but he loved to be back there making his bread, watching it grow, getting the beautiful color, making the gorgeous bagels, everything like that... I learned a lot of that from them and it's something that you get to see what your hands have done in a very short period of time. A lot of people don't get to see that; it may be months away."

Bobby graduated from college with a degree in petroleum land management, but quickly realized that the bakery was where he was meant to be as it was the place he grew up. It was comfortable to him, and still is today. In 1998, he took over the business with his wife and aunt. A majority of the baked goods sold at Three Brothers Bakery are original recipes from his father and uncles, including the egg bread, the rye bread and the corn rye bread. However, to accommodate more customers' needs and reach a larger clientele, Bobby began adding more sweets and treats to the lineup, including specialty cakes, dip decks (dipped and decorated cookies), seasonal items, cake parfaits and apple turnovers.

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"I do a lot of the stuff that nobody wants to touch, like the cutout cakes that are structural, that are buildings," he says. "We just did a gingerbread man; it's 6 feet 5 inches to celebrate our 65th anniversary; it's made out of real gingerbread. I do a lot of the stuff that everybody is just scared to do. We did an oil derrick shooting oil and fire; I do a lot of [specialty] cakes."

Since Bobby took over the family business, he has seen several generations of customers visit the bakeries.

"My wife likes to say that we are memory makers that happen to be bakers. We are going on our fourth generation of customers almost. So, you see the people coming in, their kids are now having children. It's like a tradition to come here," Bobby says. "That's a lot to say about a business that really, honestly, we're like a dinosaur. I'm amazed that we are still here. We are surrounded by competition and the convenience of the grocery store; that's my biggest competition, it's the convenience factor...They want to come here, but we are just sometimes not convenient. So, we opened some stores. We came to our customers. It's worked out real well."

Currently, there are three bakery locations in Houston (Braeswood, Memorial and Washington), but Bobby has his eye on another spot, and hopes to expand throughout the state.

"Future goals would be to open another store probably in the next year, or a little bit longer; we will have to see. And then to open in other cities in Texas, like Dallas, Austin or San Antonio," he says.

In regards to the fourth store in Houston, Bobby says they know the exact location, but will not reveal those plans until a later date; Houstonians will just have to wait and see where the next spot to grab a loaf of challah bread and a box of hamantaschen will be.

"I think people should come check us out. We are like a local institution that is the best kept secret, and we really were named No. 11 in the top 50 bakeries in the country, and that says a lot about what we do and who we are," Bobby says. "My dad has an incredible story. He came from a small bakery in Poland, lasted through the Holocaust, worked in horrible conditions, came to the United States not speaking any English and opened up this small little bakery that has become an institution. We have been here 65 years now, so it says something about who we are, what we stand for and what we do. People should come to be a part of that, to have some of that, to eat some of that [and] understand what it is."

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