Since 1912, Balboni Bakery in Agawam has stood the test of time.  

Now being run by the fourth generation of the family, they’re still producing their famous “star bread” among many other treats created from that time-honored combination of yeast, water, flour, and a hot oven.  

Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited the King Street neighborhood in Agawam to bring us the story. 

Learn about the ever-changing neighborhood that Balboni’s calls home in a digital exclusive interview with Martin Balboni. 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Since 1912, the Balboni Bakery in Agawam has stood the test of time. Now being run by the fourth generation of the family, they’re still producing their famous star bread, among many other treats created from that time honored combination of yeast, water, flour, and a hot oven.

Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited the King Street neighborhood in Agawam to bring us the story.

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Sometimes the best way to beat the competition is to outlast them. The best way to do that sometimes requires maintaining a low profile.

And nothing says low profile like being tucked away on a street that could be found in Anytown, USA, with a storefront entryway not much bigger than that of a backyard shed.

It also helps to have equipment that was built to last.

Martin Balboni, Balboni Bakery: The round that you might have seen in there, it — that was bought during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. And the roll sheeter was bought during Eisenhower’s presidency. And the oven was also bought during Eisenhower’s presidency.

And because that room here, next to me, was the old hearth brick oven. And we had it removed and we put the — a new room on and the new oven.

And my poor father used to say, “See this oven? That’s my Cadillac.” Because at the time, the oven costs about as much as the Cadillac did.

Brian Sullivan: This classic bakery is a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday operation, with fourth generation Mark Balboni handling the day-to-day, including deliveries. And twin sister Monica gives up her nursing title for a couple of days to work the oven on the weekends.

Around these parts, that’s kind of a big deal.

Monica Trybus, Balboni Bakery: The oven has always, like, been considered, like, the heart of the bakery. That’s where the bread gets cooked, you know, there’s a special skill set because you have to make sure it doesn’t get burned. It’s not underdone, it’s cooked through.

And traditionally, for the 110 or so years before this, it had been a — you know, the guys were in the oven room. There was never any women in the oven room. So, I’m the first.

Now, my cousin Kara, she did go in there with her dad every once in a while. And I remember, I was probably about 15 at the time, and I’m thinking, “That’s going to be me one day.”

And here we are. It’s one day!

Brian Sullivan: When we dropped by on this Saturday morning, it was already time for the second shift and there were three generations in the house. This included Monica and Mark’s father, Ken Balboni, who started working here when he was just seven years old. And now he gets to see the lasting legacy of this 110-year-old bakery.

Ken Balboni, Balboni Bakery: It means something that we have lasted as long as we have. And because there were plenty of competitors back in the day, but they’ve all disappeared.

So many people have said, “I came here when I was a kid and I liked it so much, I came back.” And even when they live out of town, they made it a point to come here to get the bread.

Brian Sullivan: The number one bread in question that keeps them coming back would have to be the star bread, also known as horn bread or Bolognese Bread.

Whatever moniker it takes on, it’s a delectable four cornered, crusty sourdough bread, and Balboni’s is one of the few places left that still makes it. Apparently, they’ve been making it right for all these years.

John Benjamin, Balboni Bakery Customer: I grew up coming here on Sundays to grab bread, you know, for Sunday dinner. And I’ve just pretty much kept doing it, you know, throughout my life, you know, getting married and raising my family. You know, we’ve been coming here forever.

We call it the hidden bakery, you know, in our family because, you know, you drive right by it. But it’s really important to have these family businesses in town and we love supporting them. So, that’s another big reason why we come here.

Brian Sullivan: When we first arrived this morning, the family seemed pretty intent on me getting my hands dirty. The only question was, what would I be making? Well, after sizing me up, they decided to set their expectations a little lower for me.

The original plan was to have me try to make a star bread, but that’s a little too advanced. So, they took pity on me and let me make some breadsticks instead.

It’s a pretty safe bet that these sticks didn’t make it to market. But now in the year 2022, it’s 110 years and counting that the Balboni family is delivering their baked goods to several area markets. The onus of continuing that legacy now rests on the shoulders of twins Mark and Monica.

Stressful? Maybe. Fun to still be able to work closely with family? Definitely.

Monica Trybus: It’s great working together. I mean, it really builds a bond that you can’t get in any other sort of situation. I mean, here and there, there are tiffs and we do go back and forth on who has the better skills and-or ideas for what the bread needs, but in the end, it’s — it’s great.