Customers have been lining up before sunrise all this week at Lubeley’s Bakery and Deli in south St. Louis County for one last chance to buy their favorite strudels and stollens and split-layer cakes. The bakery will close on Saturday, after 80 years of business in the St. Louis area.
Helen Lubeley Murray said she and her brother Bob — who took over the bakery from their parents four decades ago — are going to hang up their aprons and retire.
“Oh, we’re sad,’’ she said on Thursday morning, as she filled display cases with trays of German pastries and cookies. “I mean, this is our life. We’re bakers. This is all we’ve ever done since we’ve been 14 years old. This is what we know. We’re very lucky to have parents who were so successful, and we just continued that tradition.’’
It was 6:30 a.m., a half-hour before opening. The phone was ringing, and customers were already waiting outside. Since the closing was announced on Facebook on Sept. 19, there have been lines out the door every morning.
The bakery, which is normally open until 5 p.m., has been selling out of everything by 11 a.m.
“We haven’t had a doughnut or a Danish or anything left,’’ she said.
The bakery is known for its German pastries, breads, cookies and cakes artfully decorated for all of life’s special occasions. Going to Lubeley’s has been a tradition for many St. Louis families, passed down to second and third generations.
Customers who come by the bakery are writing notes in journals with cheerful covers that say “Donut Worry Be Happy.” Fans of Lubeley's, from near and far, are posting good wishes on Facebook.
“It’s very humbling,’’ said Lubeley Murray. “We’re going to miss the people. You know, this type of business is kind of a happy business because we’re celebrating what they’re celebrating — birthdays, anniversaries, weddings. Even if there’s a sad time in their life, they bring pastries to fill in during the day.”
The Lubeleys’ parents, Ed and Helen Lubeley, opened their first bakery on Kingshighway in 1937, as the Great Depression was ending. The bakery moved several times before locating to 7815 Watson Road in 1982. Helen Lubeley worked at the bakery into her 90s. She died in 2014.
The Lubeleys started helping their parents when they were children, so they’ve been working at this for 50 years.
“Well, It’s just time to hang it up,’’ said Bob Lubeley, as he rolled out dough. “We’ve been doing this all our lives. And we’re all starting to have a few health issues.’’
Lubeley, 64, said that baking is in his blood, but the long hours have taken a toll.
“I get here around 4 o’clock in the morning, and I’m here until I get done — 5 or 6 o’clock,’’ he said. “When I was younger, I was here until 7 or 8. Especially during the holidays, there’ve been times I stayed overnight here. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving — baking pies.’’
Joann Augsburger Jana and her sister Susan Augsburger were second in line at the door. They left with armloads of German pastries and cakes, most of which they planned to freeze. They’ve been coming to the bakery since they were children.
“This is a phenomenal family-owned bakery,’’ said Augsburger Jana, who was near tears. “They’ve just been a part of our lives for such a long time. We’re rejoicing in their retirement, for them. But the rest of us are sad. We will miss them, and we will miss their goodies.”
Jennifer Bemis drove 45 minutes from Union to be at the bakery before it opened. She had come to buy a special pastry, called butterflies.
“My husband’s grandma lived in the area, and as a child, anytime he went over to her house, she always had butterflies from the bakery,’’ Bemis said. “And she’s now in a home with dementia, so he wanted to have some to take to her to eat one more time.’’
Because the bakery is limiting the number of products it’s selling to customers, Bemis was only able to buy six of the pastries.
“We’re going to come back on Saturday,’’ she said.
Lubeley Murray said several people have expressed an interest in buying the bakery, but nothing is definite.
Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard