Molly Crusen Bishop: Trefzger's legacy lives on

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One sunny October morning in 2016, in Peoria Heights, I was walking along Prospect Road delivering newsletters for Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation to all of the unique shops and establishments. I decided to stop by the newly renovated Trefzger’s Bakery, the work done by the incredibly talented Farnsworth Group, to take a few pictures of the newly repurposed old brick building and drop off a few newsletters. 

Around 9:15 a.m., I pulled into the parking lot of the gorgeous building. I didn’t see a huge sign, so I wasn’t quite sure where the entrance was. I finally saw a lady come out of a door carrying some bags of goodies. I walked inside and saw an exquisite sight. I saw a masterpiece of wood, bricks, beams, glass cases filled with their classic desserts, large bakery area, and a massive open space with some chairs and tables as well. I could almost taste their famous frosting from the amazing scent in the air. There were several people sitting at the tables eating, and many more in line, and the staff was busy. I finally approached someone who happily took the newsletters and I took a few photos to post on social media.

The place had a special energy and the employees were truly excited to finally have the space deserving of their special reputation of customer care and quality goods. It smelled heavenly and I left feeling on top of the world.

I walked outside and proceeded to my car when I noticed some older gentlemen slowly getting out of the car parked next to mine. They were handsome and smiling and we quickly began talking about how wonderful the newly renovated old building looked. We introduced ourselves, and lo and behold I was talking to 93-year-old Rev. Dr. John D. Trefzger and his son Bob Trefzger!

We spoke as if we were old friends, and they enlightened me that this day was the soft opening, or unofficial opening for the new Trefzger’s Bakery, now located at 4416 N. Prospect Rd. They had driven from Bloomington to congratulate current owner Jeff Huebner.

In 1993 the Trefzger family sold the recipes, and name, along with their quality reputation for baked goods and customer care, to Jeff and Martha Huebner. John and Bob agreed to interview with me for The Peorian and for Tales From The Whiskey City, my new radio show coming soon on WAZU 90.7FM, yet both gentlemen made a point while we were chatting away that they did not to want to take any highlights away from Jeff, as they were so proud and thrilled for the Huebner’s great success.

Even though John is 93 years old, he is very sharp and very charming. He told me that his family’s bakery had a contract in 1861, during the Civil War, with the Union troops to provide them with their baked goods. Simon and Catherine [Scherr} Trefzger, natives of Germany, located to Peoria and opened a baked goods store and their legacy still exists more than 132 years later.

John is a natural storyteller and he told me that in 1941 he was attending Woodruff High School and playing baseball. He smiled as he spoke of being trained from the age 14 to be the next in line to take over the family business one day. John said he was learning each and every aspect of the company, especially customer and product quality above all else, when another smile came upon his face. His eyes twinkled as he said, “Uncle Sam wanted me!”

John ended up proudly serving in the Army Air-corps during World War II (this was before the U.S. had an Air Force as we know it now), leaving his other brothers to take his spot taking over the bakery. This ultimately changed the course of his life, as he became a minister. 

We exchanged more conversation and I took several photos taking in the pure bliss that was in the air that day. Owner Jeff Huebner walked out from behind the counters and recognized all of us, funny enough, and congratulations, heartfelt wishes, and even more photos took place.

Trefzger’s tradition of truly caring about their clientele goes back to 1861. Simon and Catherine’s son Charles spent many years training and learning each department of the bakery. In 1890 Charles bought his father’s interest in the business. The policy of the family was to put their heart and soul into each intricate detail and pricing fairly, causing their repeat-customer books to grow each year.

In 1890, Charles married Sophia Schiefeling, and they had three children, Marie, Florence, and Joseph. Sophia passed away in 1901.

Their family home was then located at 109 Ellis Street. The family belonged to Sacred Heart Church, and Charles was a member of the Master Bakers’ Association, even holding the title of President. He was also a member of the Illinois Master Bakers’ Association and the National Association of Master Bakers.

Charles had a reputation of being actively involved in the uplifting of Peoria and was part of the Peoria Merchants’ Association and the Peoria Association of Commerce. This Charles W. passed the bakery down to another Charles, and then Joe Sr. and Joe Jr.

Meeting with the family descendants, Rev. Dr. John D. Trefzger and Bob Trefzger, one can see the living legacy of their family history in Peoria. They were so thoughtful and sincere and extremely happy and proud of the Huebners literally carrying out their family traditions to sweet perfections and confections.

Trefzger’s hours are Tuesday-Friday 6:30 a.m. -6:00 p.m. and Saturday 6:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Closed on Monday and Sunday. Call 309-685-9221 to order your specialty desserts and baked goods or swing by because now you can see the master bakers at work in the fantastic kitchen.

About the Author
Molly is a life-long Peorian and an author, speaker, and storyteller. She is married to Doug Bishop and has five children and one grandchild. Molly loves history and Peoria and loves to share her passions with anyone she can get to listen to her. She loves to research, interview, and write or speak about history. The youngest and ninth child of Don and Joani Crusen, she grew up on the West Bluff in the house her great grandparents built in the 1880s. She writes a historical column in Woman’s View magazine, and will be writing a column called The Peorian Perspective in The Peorian.