The history behind Downtown's bready aroma.

There's a lot of history behind that nice aroma, and Downtown is where it all started. Around 1910 the Ford Motor Co. built an attractive brick factory with white terra cotta trim on Cleveland Avenue opposite Fort Hayes (today it's just north of the I-670 overpass). Model Ts rolled out of this plant, but after a few years it was, as we say today, repurposed. The Kroger Co. had opened its Columbus Bakery at another location in 1907. In 1925, it remade the Ford plant into a bakery and, almost 90 years later, it's still operating. When the wind is right, those pleasant smells come from the more than 330 different products Kroger makes for its stores.

You would not believe how busy this plant is: 14 production lines make breads, buns, donuts, cookies, crackers and snacks. Bread and buns go to four Kroger divisions. Donuts go to all Kroger stores east of the Mississippi River. Cookies, crackers and snacks go from this single facility to all of the company's stores in 34 states. Getting the right products on the right trucks every day must be a heck of a job. But maybe after nearly 90 years of practice, it's not so difficult after all.

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to, and the answer might appear in a future column.