Married 68 years, Steve and Toni Halayko opened the Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet 60 years ago.
Photo by Billy DeLap.
WATERVLIET A line of customers stretched from the register past a glass case filled with pastries to the door, and a bread-cutting machine hummed as it sliced loaves of freshly baked bread.
The scene at the Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet on Friday morning, Aug. 8, has been mostly the same since it was opened in 1954, and in October it celebrates its 60-year anniversary.
Steve and Toni Halayko have been married for 68 years and met in Watervliet after Steve came back from serving in WWII. While Toni, 88, and Steve, 92, have mostly handed over the reigns to their sons, Jay and Bill, the majority of their lives have been spent in the business.
“You grow in it, you eat and sleep it. We love it,” said Toni. “When something comes out different and you say, ‘Oh, isn’t this beautiful? How good it tastes,’ and everything else. You enjoy selling it because you know it’s so fresh. You bake it right here, and you sell it right here.”
The mom-and-pop store has a longevity that is increasingly uncommon in the baked goods industry. With competition from big box stores where goods can be produced cheaper and faster, the Schuyler Bakery has maintained its affordable prices and high-quality baked goods.
“We do everything — cakes, wedding cakes, pies, cookies, rolls, bread, pastries, donuts, muffins, you know. We’re a diverse retail bakery, which is a dying breed in America,” said Jay.
The quality of the baked goods that are made from scratch on site is part of a labor-intensive process that keeps brothers Bill and Jay working long hours.
“I work about 70 hours a week, and my brother works 60 to 70 hours a week. People look at you like you’re crazy. That’s what you do if you want your stuff good and you want your stuff fresh,” said Jay.