Since purchasing the building in 1972, Walter N. Marks, Inc. — another family venture — has lovingly restored the historic structure and its famous Helms Bakery rooftop sign. The artisans that occupy its showrooms today share the same passion for quality and craftsmanship as the original Helms bakers.
From its inception, the bakery was a pristine showplace and a model for mass production. Bakers baked on a large scale, creating breads, cakes, pies, wedding cakes, doughnuts, cookies and even cream puffs —over 150 items in all. For all of its organized chaos, not a crumb was ever out of place. Tour groups were invited to watch as ingredients were poured, mixed and kneaded by the ton. By 1965, the bakery consumed 780 train carloads of white and wheat flour on an annual basis. Over 2 million eggs were used in a single month, and at holiday time, enormous quantities of fruit and nuts went into the batter. All this, of course, required 1,798 miles of wrapping paper.
As much a promoter as a businessman, Paul Helms quickly thrust his local bakery onto the world stage. Helms bread soon became the choice of athletes and astronauts, presidents, kings and Rose Parade queens, chalking up honors that defined an era. Beginning with its designation as Official Bread of the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the meteoric rise all but ended with the historic Apollo landing in 1969. At the 1934 California State Fair, it won the first gold medal for bread. Through the years its floats collected ribbons in the Tournament of Roses parade. In the early days of broadcast and again ahead of its time, Helms was “on the air” as sponsor of a hugely popular radio and TV cooking show featuring Helms baked goods. Jane Sterling, the host of the “Tricks and Treats” show, appeared as Helms Home Economist Coris Guy, the Martha Stewart of her day. Just months before the bakery closed, Helms Bakeries supplied Apollo 11 with its life sustaining bread, thus becoming the “first bread on the moon.”