Bakery brings cookies, cakes to city for years

The sweet, pungent smell of freshly baked cakes and cookies fills the air of Roy’s Bakery.

The small, family-owned business, which celebrated 65 years last month, is the sort of neighborhood bakery that beckons to simpler times.

“I just like the business of baking,” said Roy’s Bakery owner Gary Berninger.

It was just past 10 on a mid-week morning, and occasional customers were filtering in for some of the goodies.

Behind one of the shop’s two pastry counters was his wife, Marian, waiting on a patron.

His son, Gary Jr., was in the back.

Gary Jr. bakes many of the cookies.

“And I do everything else,” Gary Sr. said. “My wife does everything else we need done.”

In fact, the father pulls all-nighters at the business, baking the cakes and other pastries.

He gets through the long nights at work while listening to talk radio.

It’s a busy business, and Gary Sr., a 1966 Williamsport Area High School graduate, seems to have no regrets about taking over the shop started by his mother, Betty Berninger, and father, Gerald Leroy “Roy” Berninger.

Leroy cut his teeth in baking at Stroehmann’s Bakery before deciding to set out on his own.

Baking apparently is in the family genes.

Roy Sr. said he enjoys baking what customers like.

Those patrons, he noted, have included children and grandchildren of his father’s customers.

Roy’s Bakery is that kind of place – a neighborhood business that would sorely be missed if it suddenly closed.

It’s a no frills, tiny establishment that would quickly become crowded if there were a sudden run on the bakery’s sweet delights.

“We just like to stay small,” he said.

And Gary Sr. likes the location along busy Washington Boulevard in Williamsport’s East End.

He has no need, he said, for a fancy, bright electronic sign to attract customers either.

The simple one across the front of his business doesn’t as much as blink, but says it all: Roy’s Bakery, Est. 1948.

Roy Sr., of course, grew up in the family business, but he wasn’t always so sure he wanted to make it his livelihood.

After high school, he attended nearby Lycoming College for a couple of years.

It was about then he decided he might like to get a little more involved with it.

And he hasn’t looked back.

The business has been at various locations in or near the city.

Initially, Roy’s Bakery was on Lycoming Creek Road.

Over the years, it moved to Memorial Avenue, to Newberry and to 406 Washington Blvd., not far from its present spot.

According to a documented family history of Roy’s Bakery, Leroy and Betty decided they needed a bigger building and relocated the business in 1979 from the Washington Boulevard site to 1003 E. Third St.

It was a strategic move, made in part to take advantage of the heavy traffic filtering along the street.

However, the highway was soon built redirecting motorists away from Third Street.

Gary and Marian bought the business from his father in 1982 and soon thereafter relocated it to its present site.

“It’s been good,” said Marian of the business. “I enjoy it.”

Marian said many patrons buy from the bakery to celebrate special events.

And she likes seeing people return again and again.

But the best thing about the business?

“I think it makes my husband really happy,” she said.

Roy Jr. didn’t rule out some day taking over the family business.

“That’s what the plan is,” he said. “This is pretty much what I know.”

After all, continuing a family tradition is part of what it’s all about, he added.