Flowers Foods celebrated 100 years in operation with community leaders, company executives and special guests gathered in downtown Thomasville, Georgia, on May 24 to dedicate a historical building and a unique exhibit housed within.
“History in the Baking” is an interactive exhibit housed in the Flowers Foods Heritage Center, a 104-year-old building that first opened as a post office, served as a public library and later was home to several nonprofit organizations.
Flowers acquired the building, located at the corner of Broad and Jefferson Streets, in 2015 and undertook a substantial renovation that recently earned an Excellence in Rehabilitation Award from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
George E. Deese, chairman of Flowers Foods’ board of directors, told the group of about 80 people that Flowers bought and restored the building as an opportunity to give back to Thomasville.
“Our company believes in being a good corporate citizen in the communities where we operate and that is especially true in our hometown,” Deese said. “Our hope is that our investment in this handsome building, one of Thomasville’s historic landmarks, has put it in shape to last another 100 years.”
The self-guiding exhibit takes visitors through milestones in the company’s 100-year history from a family owned local bakery to a multi-billion-dollar food company traded on the New York Stock Exchange producing a wide range of bakery foods under such brands as Nature’s Own, Wonder, Dave’s Killer Bread and Tastykake. The exhibit also shares a Flowers family timeline, highlights from the local community and the story of the historic post office building in which it is housed.
Flowers CEO and President Ryals McMullian said the exhibit celebrates Flowers’ legacy of leadership, talented employees and a belief in the power of working as a team.
“This exhibit honors our past while marking the beginning of Flowers Foods next 100 years,” said McMullian. “We know if we stay true to our values of integrity, service, quality and creativity and remain committed to our strategic goals, we will continue to grow and be successful.”
Flowers Foods produces of fresh packaged bakery foods in the U.S.; its 2018 sales were $4 billion.
Flowers employees commemorated, including its first
Among the more than 20 displays in the exhibit are full-sized models of three Flowers employees whose stories represent hundreds of similar stories across the company. John Hester, the company’s first hire, is shown in a tableau of the 1919 bakery. Ike Black who retired in 1982 after 36 years with Flowers is shown in a grocery store display along with a fully restored 1946 Dodge bread truck. Ike began as a route salesman and at the time he retired as bakery president. He had hired and trained more than 50 managers serving in various positions within the company. Janice Anderson’s is the third story. She joined the company in 1966 and retired in 2012 as VP of marketing. Janice’s start as an entry level clerk who advanced to a position with responsibility for all the company’s brands and marketing efforts reflects the company’s commitment to offer people the opportunity to learn new skills and advance.
At the dedication, John Hester was posthumously awarded Flowers’ highest honor, the Langdon S. Flowers Spirit Award. The award is given to those employees who exemplify the Flowers spirit of leadership and community service. Several Hester family members attended the dedication where his eldest daughter, Annie Hester Walden, and his grandson, Willie Frederick, were presented with the award. McMullian and Frederick, who recently retired from Flowers Baking Co. of Thomasville, officially opened the doors of the exhibit to the public.
Former EVP Marta Jones Turner served as exhibit project director after retiring from Flowers in 2017. She and her team spent two and a half years researching, designing and building the exhibit, resulting in a display with broad appeal to a wide range of visitors.
“We were thrilled to unearth a Flowers Ice Cream Co. tray from 1915, early ads and correspondence for Flowers Baking Co., historic family documents and much more,” Jones Turner said. “Our team did extensive research on the facts and stories shared in the exhibit.”
Jones Turner said the local community, Flowers retirees and employees and the larger baking community generously contributed to the exhibit. One example is an actual 1946 bread truck that sits inside the display. Restoration and graphics were donated by Flowers business partners Rush Truck Center, S&B Auto, Drake Signs, Supreme Corp. and Admark Graphics.
Additionally, a vintage 1940s Flowers Baking Co. neon sign that hangs over the center of the exhibit and is believed to have hung over the original Flowers bakery in Jacksonville, Florida, was donated by Russell T. Bundy, founder of Bundy Baking Solutions, a long-time supplier to Flowers.
“The story of Flowers Foods is intertwined with the stories of our founding family, hometown community and dedicated employees,” Jones Turner said. “In celebrating our 100th anniversary, we are pleased to share this collective history and honor the thousands of individuals who have contributed to our success.”
History in the Baking is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and the first Saturday of the month, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.