Our writer says goodbye to Downtown's Kroger Bakery—and its lovely yeasty scent.
I remember the first time I smelled the vanilla-tinged scent of baking dough wafting through Downtown Columbus: I was taking 670 to 71, my windows down on a beautiful late summer evening. It was 2012 or 2013, and I had just taken my first class at Feverhead, a dance studio housed in a Grandview printing company’s garage space. I was sweaty and overjoyed, riding an adrenaline high like I’d never experienced before.
It took me by surprise, that first time. I saw the old, empty Wonder Bread factory on my left and wondered whether I was smelling the ghostly remnants of baked goods past. I didn’t know then that the Kroger Bakery, just east of me at 457 Cleveland Ave., was responsible for the smell. I just enjoyed it.
For weeks after that, I’d roll down my car windows every Wednesday evening, enjoying the sunset and the saccharine wind whipping my hair as I drove home after class. It became a Pavlovian trigger; if I smelled it at other times of the day, I’d immediately get a rush of adrenaline from a workout that hadn’t happened.
Things changed, of course. I went to Feverhead less frequently, though I still made a point to attend a show the night my now-husband proposed to me, to bid farewell to one of the studio’s founders and show off my shiny new ring. When I needed invitations printed, I turned to Bizzy Bee, the printing company whose garage-turned-studio I danced in. It changed, too, getting a new name and location. Feverhead itself transformed into something else; a feeling and a memory, still cherished by those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of it. The empty WonderBread factory filled with trendy hipsters, eager for that urban loft vibe. But that smell was always there to remind me of those few moments of pure joy I felt the first time I noticed it.
When I joined Columbus Monthly in 2016, I nominated the smell for a mention in our July Best of Columbus package. My colleagues liked the idea, but we all liked others more, so we tabled it. “It’s an evergreen,” we said. “It’ll always be there if we need to fill some space down the road.”
And then that, too, changed.
Kroger announced the closure of the facility on Monday, citing changing times and dated equipment. Its 400-plus workers will get 60 days’ pay and the option to either take a severance or relocate to another Kroger facility. That’s more than many shuttered factory workers get, I’m sure, but I’m equally sure it doesn’t soften the blow of sudden and unexpected unemployment.
And me? I suppose I get to remember fondly the innocent elation of discovering something new and mysterious, even if I was the only one who found it so.