Nothing seemed so Jewish as a box of Entenmann’s cake or cookies.
“All of the Jews I know bought Entenmann’s,” Nancy Kalikow Maxwell wrote in her 2019 book, “Typically Jewish.”
The bakery earned a place in Tablet magazine’s list of “100 Most Jewish Foods,” with an essay by TV producer and foodie Phil Rosenthal singing the praises of its chocolate-covered donuts.
And yet the family that opened the bakery on Long Island and expanded into supermarkets across the country wasn’t Jewish. Charles Edward Entenmann, the family patriarch, who helped make the company a national brand and who died on Feb. 24 at 92, was the grandson of a German immigrant who launched the bakery in Brooklyn in 1898.
Charles Entenmann was known as a shrewd businessman and inventor, who focused on engineering and technical aspects of Entenmann’s, according to Newsday. One of the company’s innovations was see-through packaging, which let shoppers preview what kinds of cakes, cookies, and danishes they were getting through a cellophane window.
The company plant in Bay Shore on Long Island would grow from five acres in 1961 to 14 acres by 2014, before Warner-Lambert bought the business for $233 million in 1978. Charles Entenmann was known for his support of health care, the environment, and the Great South Bay YMCA on Long Island,, which he helped found.
The Entenmann’s reputation as a “Jewish” brand owes much to its adoption of kosher certification from the Orthodox Union in the 1980s. The company tapped a market for budget baked goods for Jewish families and hosts — the all-dairy alternative to Stella D’Oro’s parve, or non-dairy, cakes and cookies.
Charles Entenmann moved to Florida in the mid-1980s, founding a medical technology company that focused on sealing wounds. He was buried surrounded by friends and family last week in Oakwood Cemetery in East Quogue on Long Island.
“I’m going to tell you something that’s been pretty much a secret, most of my life anyway,” his son, also named Charles, told Newsday. “He didn’t eat Entenmann’s cake. He just wasn’t a dessert guy.”
Jewish Telegraphic Agency