Columbus After Dark: A Night at Schneider's Bakery

Beth Stallings

Jeff Hamler knew the early-morning routine at Schneider's Bakery before he ever worked there. As a kid in the late 1970s delivering the Citizen-Journal, he'd poke his head through the propped-open front door around 3 or 4 a.m. and ask Mr. Schneider if he could buy some doughnuts. "He wasn't officially open, but if you knew him, he would sell you something," Hamler says. When Hamler bought the Westerville bakery in 1986, he started opening at 1 a.m. Saturday morning and 1:30 a.m. weekday mornings to appease the nearby Otterbein College kids who were doing the exact same thing he'd done years earlier. Now, drive down South State Street in the middle of the night, and you're likely to catch 200 people waiting patiently to order a special-any doughnut with coffee or milk for $1.25. "It's evolved to where parents bring slumber parties. I've had kids in the street playing corn hole. One time the police responded because there were so many kids breaking curfew," Hamler says with a chuckle. To handle the crowd, a full-time cashier and a five-person baking crew work from about 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. They start every night preparing the most popular order-glazed doughnuts-before moving on to pastries, cookies and cakes. "Glazed doughnuts taste completely different when they are warm," Hamler says. "That's why it's so popular. They literally melt in your mouth."