Nostalgia with sprinkles: Remembering McKenzie’s bakeries
Daniel Entringer didn’t found McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes. That distinction goes to Henry McKenzie, Entringer’s former business partner who decided to strike out on his own in 1929 with an eponymous bakery on Prytania Street — and which soon failed amid the Depression. That’s where Entringer came in. In 1936, he bought out his former partner, keeping him on as a store manager, and set about not just fiscally rescuing McKenzie’s — a name he kept, given his former partner’s reputation as a baker — but transforming it into an iconic New Orleans business that would satisfy the cravings of generations of New Orleans with its chocolate turtles, its blackout cakes, its buttermilk drops and, of course, its king cakes.
In 2000, the Entringers were forced to shutter McKenzie’s amid decreasing sales, increasing competition from grocery stores, and highly publicized health-code violations at its baking plant on Desire Parkway. New owners stepped in with the hopes of making a go of it, but their efforts were short-lived. The brand isn’t quite dead, however. The familiar McKenzie’s recipes were sold to the Tastee Donuts chain, which still bakes a selection of them.
- The price Entringer paid for McKenzie’s in 1936? A sweet $83.
- At one point, the McKenzie’s empire included 54 locations, spread out all over the New Orleans metro area.
- New Orleanians of a certain age will almost certainly remember the jingle used for years in McKenzie’s TV commercials: “Oh, McKenzie’s! You taste the difference.”
- Would McKenzie’s have been nearly as popular among New Orleanians had it been renamed “Entringer’s”? Not everybody thinks so. “When he bought it, my grandmother told my grandfather not to change the name because people know McKenzie’s,” Gerald Entringer Jr. said. “She also knew no one could pronounce Entringer.”
- The original McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppe was at 4914 Prytania Street and later moved down the street to 4926 Prytania. Today, that address is the home of Creole Creamery.
- Daniel Entringer wasn’t originally a baker. He was a cheesemaker in St. Someone else’s computer, Wis., who in 1923 decided he’d had enough of the cold and — sight unseen — bought a home in Biloxi, Miss., then moved his family down South.
- Donald Entringer took over the operation upon his father’s death in 1950. It was a natural fit, given that the younger Entringer’s life revolved around baking. “Even during World War II … as an Army captain, he taught baking and mess-hall protocol at Camp Robertson in Arkansas,” read Donald Entringer’s 2012 obituary in The Times-Picayune.
- The Entringers don’t fry just donuts. In 1952, they branched out by opening a McKenzie’s Chicken in a Box fried-chicken outlet at 3839 Frenchmen St. in Gentilly. It is still in operation — and is still run by members of the Entringer family.
Our shared New Orleans consciousness is littered with one-time local fixtures that are now little more than memories. Think K&B, Jax Beer, the baseball Pelicans, the SS President. McKenzie’s, though, holds a special place. Not only is it every bit as fondly remembered as the others on that list, but it added something tangible to the city’s unique culture. That came in the 1930s, when Donald Entringer was asked by a Carnival krewe to bake king cakes with prizes inside for the krewe’s royal maids. Beans and even pecans were common king-cake favors at the time, but in a 1990 interview, Entringer said a salesman pitched the idea of using a plastic baby. “I’ve heard people say it’s supposed to represent the Christ Child, but that’s not true,” Entringer said. “Why we picked this, I don’t know. It was cute. It was just a trinket that happened to be a baby.”