Charles E. Entenmann, the last of three brothers who, with their mother, ran a Long Island bakery as it became one of the nation’s best-known producers of baked-goods, died on Feb. 24 in Hialeah, Fla. He was 92.
His daughter-in-law, Wendy Entenmann, confirmed the death.
At Bay Shore High School’s 50-year reunion in 1997, Mr. Entenmann told his classmates that he was “just a baker,” an understated description that conjured up the homespun image of a small shop like the one his grandfather started almost a century earlier.
But mass production had long since become a way of life at the company’s Long Island plant, and Mr. Entenmann, who had a knack for engineering and administration, presided over the automation of the cake lines. He also oversaw the design of a computer-controlled system that carried ingredients to the mixing vats.
The product in the white boxes with the cellophane windows did not change, though, and he contended that that consistency was what had sustained Entenmann’s.
“We survived where so many other fine baking houses vanished because we stuck to quality and devised ways to control quality,” he told The New York Times in 1976. “The two-millionth piece of cake must not only be good — it must be as good as the first.”
The first had been baked by his grandfather William Entenmann, who came to New York from Stuttgart, Germany, and in 1898 opened a bakery in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, making rolls and delivering them from a horse-drawn wagon. When his son came down with rheumatic fever, he moved to a place he hoped would have fresher air: Bay Shore, on Long Island’s South Shore.
As the company’s operation there expanded — the plant eventually covered 14 acres — cake was added to the list of products. Morgans and Vanderbilts enjoyed a slice from time to time, according to the company website. In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra placed weekly orders for crumb coffeecake.
Charles Entenmann and his brothers stepped into executive roles in 1951 after their father, William Jr., died. In the 1970s, the executive suite was a single room with four Chippendale desks: one for Mr. Entenmann, two for his brothers and the fourth for George Rosenthal, the company’s labor expert.
They shared managerial decisions with their mother, Martha (Schneider) Entenmann, who had kept the books and supervised the office when her husband was alive. She became the face of the company — literally. When Entenmann’s went public in 1976, the company’s stock certificates carried an image of Mrs. Entenmann, who was known to the hundreds of employees at the Bay Shore plant as Mrs. E.
The company stopped making bread and rolls in the 1950s to concentrate on cakes, pies and pastries. It also dropped its home delivery routes, switching to supermarket chains and grocery stores.
In 1978, the family sold the company to Warner-Lambert, which at the time manufactured everything from pharmaceuticals to candy. Entenmann’s has been owned since 2002 by Bimbo Bakeries USA, a division of a Mexican company that says it is the largest commercial baker in the United States. Besides Entenmann’s, Bimbo markets venerable bread and pastry brands like Arnold, Sara Lee and Thomas’.
Charles Edward Entenmann was born in Bay Shore on July 12, 1929. He joined the family business after serving in the Army.
He is survived by a son, Charles; a daughter, Susan Nalewajk; seven grandchildren; and a number of great-grandchildren. His wife, Nancy (Drake) Entenmann, died in 2014. A daughter, Barbara Thompson, died in 2018. His brother William died in 2011, his brother Robert in 2016.
Mr. Entenmann retired after the sale to Warner-Lambert and moved to Florida, where he started two companies: Biosearch, to develop a self-sustaining power cell, and Biolife, to produce products that help stop bleeding.