February 7, 2007

Van de Kamp's

And the man behind the brand is...
Theodore Van de Kamp

Theodore Van de Kamp was an ambitious man but like many others his name was still obscure when he died in the 1950s. In 1915 Van Kamp and his brother-in-law Lawrence Frank established a potato chip stand in downtown Los Angeles. The specialty of the tiny family bakery was something called Saratoga Chips.

Van de Kamp stressed the cleanliness and the old-country Dutch quality of his operation. His sisters designed traditional Dutch costumes to wear while serving customers and Van de Kamp designed a windmill trademark to place on everything he sold. He hung promotional signs in his window: “Fresh Every Minute” and “Made-Kept-Sold-Clean Clean Clean.” When a selection of beverages were added the Van de Kamps were suddenly in the restaurant business.

Van de Kamp built his first retail bakery store in 1921 and, with typical flair, designed the building in the shape of a windmill, authentic right down to the rotating arms. Over the next ten years Van de Kamp’s bakery goods spread throughout Los Angeles. When grocery stores gained popularity in the 1930s Van de Kamp established his bakeries just beyond the check out counters and, eventually, into the markets themselves.

Theodore Van de Kamp had built a nice business by the time of his death in 1956, a half-century removed from his potato stand. But nothing that would have made his name nationally known. The family business was sold to General Baking Company after the founders’ deaths, which was later renamed General Host Corp.

General Host rapidly left its baking origins behind in 1959 with initial forays into frozen foods, retaining the Van de Kamp name. General Host also retained Theodore Van Kamp’s concept of promotion: when it built a two-building frozen food processing factory the plant was built in the shape of ice cubes. Van de Kamp’s Frozen Seafood pioneered the battered fish stick in the 1970s, spreading Theodore Van de Kamp’s name across the nation.


Anonymous said...

does anyone know where I might find the Van de Kamp Bakery Birthday Cake Recipe? Remember the white cake with the pink roses on top and the lemon piping frosting.

Anonymous said...

I believe my father built the first windmill in Hollywood. How can I verify it?

Anonymous said...

My father worked as a painter for Van de Kamp's. I used to think the windmills would continue to turn and he had to hang on in order to paint them! I have an old buffet table the family gave to my father in exchange for painting their private home. It also came with a beautiful mirror in the shape of an hour glass with a floral crown painting at the top.
Ironically, my neighbor's parents met and married after working together in the bakery.