Local bakery’s made-from-scratch treats with zero preservatives separate it from the crowd; hard work and dedication keep business rising.
Baking has been in the Berkshire family’s blood for nearly 75 years.
Jim Berkshire, owner of Johnnie’s Bakery, grew up in the bakery’s Canton location at 109 Wertz Ave. NW. He worked 45 to 50 hours a week as a three-sport star at Jackson High, and has worked hard since.
Jim spends each day keeping alive the traditions his father, Billy, and mother, Georgianna “Toots,” started when the couple took a chance and opened their own business in 1946.
Billy passed away in 1973, but Toots can still be found almost every morning at the bakery’s location at 6652 Wise Ave. NW in North Canton. She’ll turn 92 in November.
Some wonder why the bakery is named Johnnie’s.
Billy’s cousin’s husband, Johnnie, operated a neighborhood convenience store. The Berkshires took over the store when Johnnie moved to California. A few years later, Billy met Bob Miller at a bakery, the two partnered, installed ovens and transformed the store into a bakery.
Johnnie’s Bakery was born, and the Berkshires have been baking ever since.
Jim wasn’t the only second-generation Berkshire to get baking fever. His sister, Charlene, manages the North Canton location. His brother, Bill, who started at the Canton location in 1969, worked there until retiring in 2015. Kandy worked as a decorator. And, Barb, who recently passed away, worked as a decorator and even owned her own bakery in Ridgeland, S.C. Jim’s wife, Cathy, also is involved.
The third generation is now active. Jim and Cathy’s son, Beau, and daughter, Amanda, work at Johnnie’s. The couple’s other children, Chance and Drew, aren’t involved in the business.
Johnnie’s has an extended family, too. The 23 people employed at both bakeries are very close to the Berkshires.
“We’re fortunate to have such a great crew,” said Jim. “From sales clerks to bakers to decorators to the delivery guys, this place doesn’t go without the whole team.”
Jim added that Johnnie’s is grateful for its many dedicated customers.
“We’re fortunate to have such a great following,” said Jim. “Our sales today are stronger than they were three years ago.”
Johnnie’s has been named best bakery several times in recent years in The Canton Repository’s readers’ choice editions.
Andrea George is the store manager in Canton overseeing operations and scheduling. Erica Stires is a decorator who helps Andrea with operations and Facebook. Diane Arn is a baker and so is Jim’s son, Beau, who recently returned from service in the Air Force Reserve.
The Canton store handles baking for both locations. To get Johnnie’s delicious treats, customers must go to one of its two bakeries.
Johnnie’s is known for its delicious sweets – donuts, cakes, cookies and Danish rolls. But the bakery also is famous for its bread, Angello’s bread, in particular.
“It’s the best bread you’ll ever taste,” said Jim.
Angello’s bread was inspired by Jimmy Angello, known for his restaurants, including Angello’s and, more recently, Angello’s 2 Go.
Quality and freshness help Johnnie’s stand out.
Everything at Johnnie’s is still made from scratch every day. That’s evident from aromas wafting across the bakery after walking into the door.
“I could buy my recipes and icing in a bucket, like others,” said Jim. “But I’ll never let that happen.”
Johnnie’s has kept many original recipes.
“We follow tried-and-true recipes from when the bakery first opened,” said Jim. “You really can taste the difference.”
It’s not as easy as it might appear to be a baker and operate a local-favorite bakery.
There are the long hours, and the scheduling and baking. Add the decorating, customer service and business side of things, and it can add up to a lot of stress.
“It’s kind of like watching a professional golfer on TV,” said Jim. “It seems like it would be pretty simple, but then you get out there and give it a try it, it’s not so easy.”
The team at Johnnie’s, however, helps keep stress to a minimum.
Johnnie’s supports many local charities. The bakery is known for its generosity in providing gift cards for fundraisers to impact in Canton, North Canton and surrounding communities.
When asked what the future holds, Jim said he has no plans to retire any time soon.
“I love this business,” he said. “If I’m healthy when I’m 70, I’ll be helping out here. As long as whoever’s running the bakery then wants me to help, I’ll be here.”
As long as Johnnie’s continues to keep Billy and Toots’ traditions alive, there’s no doubt Canton and Stark County residents will keep living delicious lives.