Women’s Community Bakery Collective, 1976-1992

By Vernice Woodland. The Community Bakery, Inc. was incorporated in Maryland in May 1976 and for a couple of years operated in Hyattsville, MD as the Women’s Community Bakery.  In September 1979, the business moved to DC…. 736 7th Street, SE.  From 1979 through 1992, the business operated at this address.  A two-story building, the bakery was on the first floor where the production and packaging took place, bakery office, employee space on the second floor.  The business also had a delivery truck for deliveries.

I have a copy of the application for the occupancy permit… however the signatures of the principals are not legible… the articles of incorporation (not for profit corporation) are on file at DCRA in SW DC, but (of course) DC charges $140.00 for a copy.  Am planning to contact the office in MD… for a copy if I am unable to find the founder’s names…

This is one of the few producer cooperatives located in DC at that time…they baked whole-grain breads, rolls, muffins and a few other bakery goods to grocery stores and restaurants.  Their major operations were the preparation and baking of the products, packaging and delivery to regular customers.  The bakery described itself as a “non-profit, community-owned businesses” – a women’s collective.. community ownership referring to the community of workers.  The business also gave surplus products to social service groups including shelters, and a limited retail business with neighborhood residents, particularly those families located in what I think used to be the Carroll and the Arthur Capers (sp?) Housing that used to be located in the M Street SE area as well as the Potomac Gardens and Kentucky Court communities.

The Bakery was the subject of an ethnographic study by Ruth Landman (anthropology, American University)… published in “Creating Community in The City: Cooperatives and Community Gardens in Washington, DC” (Bergin & Garvey, 1993).  The study provides detail regarding business operations as well as the collective’s philosophy, decision-making strategies, member interaction, including the weekly meetings designed for not only scheduling, collective business, but also “important arena for building and maintaining the collective, communitarian quality of the business”.  However, the principals remain anonymous and I would like to find former members to verify information.  There is supposedly a 9-page document exists, somewhere, that describes the business philosophy, operations, expectations, etc.

There is also a collection of Collective recipes published in Uprising by the Cooperative Whole Grain Educational Association.

Interesting group – they closed in 1992, not because of declining business… the principals were tired, wanted to do something else, and couldn’t find anyone to take over the business (that also needs to be verified).

Ruth Landman author of the study is deceased, Fran Heaps, the registered agent for the business is also deceased.  I did find a Kim Shipman who was a former volunteer.. am looking for updated contact information for her as well as the business founders.

26 comments

  1. Sarah M. Barnes

    Hello, I am one of the founding women (1 of 4) of this bakery. I want to find the other women too. I know alot about the beginning. The main woman lives it Pa. now. I am so glad to see this on the internet. I hope you will get in touch.

      • Millie Riley

        Oct. 22, 2012 — Millie Riley
        Hello! How wonderful to rediscover this bakery coop we loved so back in the mid seventies. Paul and I moved to the Avondale cooperative in 1970 (and still live here), It was a special time–attention to the values of wholesome food and cooperative effort. From young ages our two girls (born here 1972 and 1973) walked up 18th street from P to shop at Stone Soup. Once a week I got my own coop members to join me in ordering from Women’s Community Bakery–it was special. My daughters learned and practice these habits today. I recall those days happily. Thank you
        ,like

    • Scott Norman Rosenthal

      I’m Scott Norman Rosenthal. I have a Hidden Disability. Far as I’ve so far determined, few, if any, others have recovered from this part of the spectrum of symptomotology. I’ve used Alternative Medicine, but foundered for 25 years because I didn’t take it far enough, ignoring herbs which I failed to grasp as essential in diet. I’m still struggling to progress. Now I struggle against a corrupt system which forces poor people with comparable problems into Mental Health, even through the most illegal of methods.
      Back in the day, almost 30 years ago, I wandered into the Women’s Community Bakery on a visit to D.C.. I was, and am, always cash poor. The woman at the counter sent me out with a loaf of bread. I don’t recall her name. I’ve passed on that loaf of bread. I continue, since 1987, to run a community project. The “Phantom Rose Express”, unique in this region, the Delaware Valley. Valid, recognized, unincorporated. This on SSI and small assistance from friends. We need not receive wages to work for our extended community.
      I was more hyperactive by far, and naive in those days. To myself and others, the world seemed so much more hopeful then. I have remembered the bakery as one of the wondrous things that seem to be vanishing from this tired world.
      Bless us all.

    • Johanna Bockman

      Hi Sarah, it would be great to talk further about the start of the bakery as part of a broader history of cooperatives in DC. If you’d be interested, we could talk by email (johanna.bockman@gmail.com) or by phone or whatever works for you.
      Best,
      Johanna

      • Johanna Bockman

        Thanks, Millie, for your great comments. It is so important to highlight these cooperative habits and how they might continue today.
        Best,
        Johanna

      • Johanna Bockman

        Thanks, Scott, for your great memories. Best of luck with your current work.
        Best,
        Johanna

    • Johanna Bockman

      Hi Sarah,
      I have been wanting to develop history pages for the coops of the past, including the bakery, which would include comments by people who worked or shopped at them. Time, of course, for all of us is an issue. Would you Lee, Gioia, Carolyn, and Sarah (who have all replied to this post) like to write something about your experiences working at the cooperative? You could write such a thing individually or as a group. I would be happy to post whatever you want to supply on the Coop DC website, where the current short history is. For example, your contribution could include:
      1) when you started and stopped working there
      2) what kinds of work you did, how many people were working there when you were there
      3) what you thought about the work, organization, fellow workers, special events, etc.
      4) how the bakery related to other cooperatives or to the surrounding community
      Alternatively, you could just write a few thoughts in an informal way. Anything would be great!
      I’m sending this as a reply to all and a reply to each of your replies to make sure I get this message to you. Sorry if you get it twice.
      Best wishes,
      Johanna (johanna.bockman@gmail.com)

  2. Carolyn Scott

    Hi, I worked at the bakery in DC for maybe a couple of years in 1985. My name at the time was Carolyn Bernstein, and now am Carolyn Kennemer-Scott. I live in SC and remember so much! I have some nice photos too from that time period. Contact me @ minstrelmanswife@yahoo.com

    • Johanna Bockman

      HI Carolyn, I just wrote you at your email address. Looking forward to talking further.
      Best,
      Johanna

    • Johanna Bockman

      Hi Carolyn,
      I have been wanting to develop history pages for the coops of the past, including the bakery, which would include comments by people who worked or shopped at them. Time, of course, for all of us is an issue. Would you Lee, Gioia, Carolyn, and Sarah (who have all replied to this post) like to write something about your experiences working at the cooperative? You could write such a thing individually or as a group. I would be happy to post whatever you want to supply on the Coop DC website, where the current short history is. For example, your contribution could include:
      1) when you started and stopped working there
      2) what kinds of work you did, how many people were working there when you were there
      3) what you thought about the work, organization, fellow workers, special events, etc.
      4) how the bakery related to other cooperatives or to the surrounding community
      Alternatively, you could just write a few thoughts in an informal way. Anything would be great!
      I’m sending this as a reply to all and a reply to each of your replies to make sure I get this message to you. Sorry if you get it twice.
      Best wishes,
      Johanna (johanna.bockman@gmail.com)

  3. Scott Norman Rosenthal

    Thanks. I’m currently foghting for my life. Things have deteriorated. There is durect frontal assault on Alternative Medicine, especially for the poor. So much about “Autsm/Aperger’s”, and so few of the significant questions being asked.

    • Johanna Bockman

      Hi Gioia,
      I have been wanting to develop history pages for the coops of the past, including the bakery, which would include comments by people who worked or shopped at them. Time, of course, for all of us is an issue. Would you Lee, Gioia, Carolyn, and Sarah (who have all replied to this post) like to write something about your experiences working at the cooperative? You could write such a thing individually or as a group. I would be happy to post whatever you want to supply on the Coop DC website, where the current short history is. For example, your contribution could include:
      1) when you started and stopped working there
      2) what kinds of work you did, how many people were working there when you were there
      3) what you thought about the work, organization, fellow workers, special events, etc.
      4) how the bakery related to other cooperatives or to the surrounding community
      Alternatively, you could just write a few thoughts in an informal way. Anything would be great!
      I’m sending this as a reply to all and a reply to each of your replies to make sure I get this message to you. Sorry if you get it twice.
      Best wishes,
      Johanna (johanna.bockman@gmail.com)

  4. Lee Armstrong

    I was a founding member of the bakery and stayed connected with it for many years. There is a bakery facebook page. Lee Armstrong

    • Johanna Bockman

      Hi Lee,
      I have been wanting to develop history pages for the coops of the past, including the bakery, which would include comments by people who worked or shopped at them. Time, of course, for all of us is an issue. Would you Lee, Gioia, Carolyn, and Sarah (who have all replied to this post) like to write something about your experiences working at the cooperative? You could write such a thing individually or as a group. I would be happy to post whatever you want to supply on the Coop DC website, where the current short history is. For example, your contribution could include:
      1) when you started and stopped working there
      2) what kinds of work you did, how many people were working there when you were there
      3) what you thought about the work, organization, fellow workers, special events, etc.
      4) how the bakery related to other cooperatives or to the surrounding community
      Alternatively, you could just write a few thoughts in an informal way. Anything would be great!
      I’m sending this as a reply to all and a reply to each of your replies to make sure I get this message to you. Sorry if you get it twice.
      Best wishes,
      Johanna (johanna.bockman@gmail.com)

    • Ellie Cutler

      Hi Lee!! Hope things are well w/you. Molly must be all grown up by now. I remember my bakery days with great fondness. …Ellie

  5. Johanna Bockman

    Hi All,
    I have been wanting to develop history pages for the coops of the past, including the bakery, which would include comments by people who worked or shopped at them. Time, of course, for all of us is an issue. Would you Lee, Gioia, Carolyn, and Sarah (who have all replied to this post) like to write something about your experiences working at the cooperative? You could write such a thing individually or as a group. I would be happy to post whatever you want to supply on the Coop DC website, where the current short history is. For example, your contribution could include:
    1) when you started and stopped working there
    2) what kinds of work you did, how many people were working there when you were there
    3) what you thought about the work, organization, fellow workers, special events, etc.
    4) how the bakery related to other cooperatives or to the surrounding community
    Alternatively, you could just write a few thoughts in an informal way. Anything would be great!
    I’m sending this as a reply to all and a reply to each of your replies to make sure I get this message to you. Sorry if you get it twice.
    Best wishes,
    Johanna (johanna.bockman@gmail.com)

  6. Pingback: Cooperative Histories | Coop DC
  7. Ellie Cutler

    I worked at the bakery in 1979 with Lee, the two Merediths, Kate Costello, Janice Ososky, Gwen, Laura Dodd, Francine and ??? I loved the Sunday shift, making cookies and carrot cakes and listening to stained glass bluegrass.

  8. Scott Norman Rosenthal

    I was born with serious neuro-metabolic problems. I’ve fought the Mental Health System for most of my life.
    About 30 years ago, I was in D.C. for a few hours. The Divine Universe guided me to the Bakery. It was a wonderful place in the ordinariness of its atmosphere. The down-to-earth attitude of compassion that I found.
    The woman there gave me a loaf of bread. (I’ve always been cash poor).
    My dream of revisiting is, of course, long gone.
    It was another age.

  9. Johanna Bockman

    Do you by any chance have Julie’s Favorite cookie recipe of the Women’s Community Bakery Collective? Here is a message I received:
    I have a friend without a computer and tonight he asked me to look up the women’s community bakery because he had found a recipe many years ago for a delicious cookie that he has lost and would like to get a copy. I searched and your name came up in many of the comments so I am asking you, “Do you know the recipe or where I can find it for “Julie’s Favorite”? He claims that one ingredient is barley malt.

  10. Myffanwy Rose

    The Maple Nugget cookies were my favorite. I haven’t been able to find a recipe for them anywhere. Does anyone have it? I used to buy them at the University of Maryland Coop, but they were made by the Women’s Community Bakery in DC. If anyone has the recipe I’d be grateful for it!

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