It started when Russell T. Bundy, helping dismantle a bakery, spotted someone throwing out an old advertising sign.
It has turned into the Bundy Baking Museum, a sort of love song, cathedral and thank-you note to the baking industry’s past, all wrapped into one and placed in a restored 19th century mill at Bundy Baking Solutions’ Urbana, OH, headquarters.
“The industry has given so much to me and my family,” said Mr. Bundy, founder of Bundy Baking Solutions. “I see this as a way to give back. It’s important to all of us. It’s what grounds us and reminds us how important this industry is to the world.”
Mr. Bundy began his collection in the 1970s with those old signs, rescued from a Newport News, VA, building and taken back to Urbana. Four decades later, he hasn’t stopped.
“I’m still looking for more,” he said. “I’ve known so many good people in this industry over the years and, sadly, many of them are gone. This is a way of keeping their spirit alive.”
One of the newest ways Mr. Bundy has found to do that is the addition of a Wall of Founders exhibit to the museum.
“It’s my small way to pay back some of these great people who helped this industry,” he said.
The museum is now home to countless advertising signs and billboards, according to Wendi Ebbing, marketing manager for the company. Those signs, found in scrap heaps, in the back of shops and everywhere between, have become a favorite focal point for visitors.
“I would say a lot of people are awed by the signs we have,” Ms. Ebbing said. “We have actual billboards from the 1950s that we have put on display. They’re very unique and from a time when advertising was key in the industry.”
A vital part of that advertising included celebrities and professional athletes.
“We have advertisements with Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams and all kinds of guys,” Ms. Ebbing said. “It’s amazing to see what an integral part of society the baking industry was — and is.”
Among the biggest challenges in building the museum is the restoration of the signs, including many neon signs, Mr. Bundy said.
“Rebuilding some of the neon signs has been difficult,” he said. “Things have changed, and sometimes parts are not available.”
The museum is home to a wide range of memorabilia, including old models of ovens, miniature ovens scaled to size, and relics from the early days of delivering baked goods. Among the more notable are early bicycles and a sleigh used during winters in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“One of the first impressions people have is just ‘wow,’ ” Ms. Ebbing said. “There is so much to see. It’s a different experience for everyone. With the sheer amount of items, everyone takes something different away from the experience.”
The museum is open to baking industry professionals in hopes, Mr. Bundy said, that they will take away some of the appreciation for the trade, an appreciation that he himself has gained over the years.
Mr. Bundy began his career in the baking industry with Ecko/Glaco and went on to begin Bundy Baking Solutions and its six family brands. He has been a part of the American Society of Baking (ASB), the Bakery Equipment Manufacturers Association and the American Baking Association. Many of the museum’s artifacts are on display annually at ASB’s annual technical conference, which will be held this year from March 2-4 in Chicago.
And while Mr. Bundy is proud of that past, he also sees great things ahead, and it’s all tied in with his museum and its mission.
“We’re able to honor the past while inspiring the future,” Mr. Bundy said. “I’m so happy that we’re able to offer this.”