Leading the way: Arthur Trausch Sr. and Arthur Trausch Jr.
Arthur Trausch Sr. and Arthur Trausch Jr. only had one gear: Full speed ahead. The late father and son had a drive for success that never wavered and were committed to their families, baking company and industry. Leading by example, they grew the Trausch Baking Co., Dubuque, Iowa, into a profitable bakery of quality and served on the boards of several industry organizations.
To Tim Trausch, son and grandson of the honorees, these men were knowledgeable and honorable industry leaders, among many other things. His grandfather made coffee cake that people lined up for and that Tim Trausch deemed the best in North America. He remembers his dad as a family man with nine children.
“He joked he needed a third shift at the bakery,” he said. “We all, of course, did work there.”
The two men were also tough, which was critical in an ever-changing industry full of challenges.
“Grandpa was a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy,” Tim Trausch chuckled. “Dad was to the right of the Pope and John Wayne, and I think he learned that from Grandpa. They both were pretty colorful guys.”
Established in 1907, Trausch Baking Co. — Vienna Bakery at that time — was a small bakery run by John Trausch, Arthur Trausch Sr.’s uncle. Moving from his home in Luxembourg to America, Arthur Trausch Sr. became the head baker there. He later became a partner, growing the operation into one of the largest baking businesses in Iowa.
“My grandfather took Trausch into Quality Bakers of America,” Tim Trausch said. “He rubbed elbows with almost every early member in the Hall of Fame.”
Arthur Trausch Jr. was born into the baking industry and began working there at a very young age. After serving in the Army in World War II, he went to AIB International for his education and returned to the bakery to gain more training from his father. Together, they made strides into the future.
“In the big picture, I guess you could say that if that little baker in Dubuque, invested in this new technology, gave it a shot and made it work, then we should try,” Tim Trausch said.
The two enjoyed attempting new bread formulations, which translated into labels such as Hillbilly Bread, Peter Pan, Roman Meal and Less Bread. Their openness to the new technologies of the day created a long list of accomplishments for the company and other businesses they ran. These included the first bakery to buy a donut making machine in Iowa and among the first bakeries to apply a bread slicer invented by Otto Rohwedder in 1929, bulk flour system in 1957, AMF Poly (Cellophane) wrapping machines, two-way radios for route trucks and Lanham Continuous Proof and Bake systems.
“Innovation was everything,” Tim Trausch said. “They might not have been the first, but they were usually in the top three of somebody trying something new.”
The Trausch Baking Co. torch was passed on in 1964 to Arthur Trausch Jr., whose efforts gave the company the reputation of a “brand builder,” creating many of the popular brands consumers enjoy today. Elected to a variety of association boards and a member of many other organizations and clubs, Arthur Trausch Jr. attended and spoke at a range of events.
During a devastating flood in 1965, Arthur Trausch Jr. took out a second mortgage on his house to keep the business afloat — figuratively and literally. In some places the water reached 7 feet outside the bakery, making it the largest flood to ever hit Dubuque. Pictures from the disaster show millions of sandbags, and in the bakery itself, secured braces line the interior walls.
“The big concern was the walls collapsing, and Dad wouldn’t leave the bakery,” Tim Trausch said. “He was there basically 24 hours a day.”
In 1976, Arthur Trausch Jr. made the decision to sell the company to G. Heileman Brewing Co. because Trausch Baking Co. had topped out, and the acquisition would allow a greater revenue stream. He was named president of the Heileman Baking Division and grew it to more than $350 million in annual sales with 13 commercial bakeries throughout the Midwest. Later, Heileman was sold to Metz Baking Co., which began a list of acquisitions. Now the original Trausch Baking Co. location is an automated plant under Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham Township, Pa.
Even bigger than the two men’s success was their esteemed care for others. Both father and son believed in education and had a desire to see each employee succeed. R. Michael Saulsberry, owner, Alpine Baking, L.L.C., Fairfield, Conn., shared his personal experience of being given the opportunity by Arthur Trausch Jr. to attend AIB International’s 10-week course, which he called a valuable education and development opportunity for his future.
Tim Trausch recalled employees moving up in the ranks — some starting at the back of the line catching pans and being promoted to managers and others going from an assistant mechanic position to a head engineer at the bakery. And when asked if he was worried that another company might try to hire employees away, Arthur Trausch Jr. response was honest: “A man should try to better his position, and if we’re not paying them enough or treating them well, then those men should have the right to move on.”
One late night, Arthur Trausch Jr. stopped at the bakery. As he was observing repairs on a bulk packer, the maintenance man at the time, Mike Condon, handed him parts and said, “Here, hold this.” Arthur Trausch Jr. did so without a word. It was only after he left that Mr. Condon turned to his coworker Mr. Saulsberry and asked who the man was. When Mr. Saulsberry told him, the maintenance man was surprised and commented how rare it was that someone in Arthur Trausch Jr.’s position would help as he did.
Just one of the many stories told about Arthur Trausch Jr.’s character, this anecdote sheds some light on the respect others had for him.
“He put it all into his job and would do anything for his team, his employees and shareholders,” Tim Trausch said.
Much of Arthur Trausch Jr.’s kindness probably came from his father’s example. Arthur Trausch Sr. would drive his employees to work, bail them out of jail if needed and increase wages when he noticed poverty within a family.
“It was as different era, but they were pretty special,” Tim Trausch noted. “The bottom line is that they were hard-working and open-minded and cared about their customers and employees. It was a big family.”
Tim Trausch will accept the 2019 Baking Hall of Fame award for his father and grandfather and said the honor is a big deal to him and his family.
“My grandfather and dad were pretty cutting edge, and they were fighting some of the same battles — labor costs, commodity prices, customer education, government regulations and cutthroat pricing — we fight today,” he said. “The honor is truly humbling for all of the Trausch family.”