One of the signs of the times is that seniors who thought they would be retiring at a certain age are continuing in established careers or even starting second careers because of changes in the economy. Maybe they aren’t ready for a rocking chair, but many are interested in slowing down, just not so much. Jobs are not nearly as available in past decades; employer-employee loyalty is a dying concept, and some pension funds have been decimated.
So some are job hunting instead of enjoying retirement parties. Some are struggling to hold onto jobs that require more than they’d like to invest. Some are seeking training and looking to start second careers.
James Hamlin, on the other hand, is working on his third career, having already spent 35 years at United Parcel Service (UPS) as a corporate executive and worked with the team determined to revitalize Pennsylvania. And he’s not tired yet, in fact he said he likes the hard work he’s embraced in establishing The Avenue Bakery; hard work, he says, is all he's ever known.
When asked why a bakery, Hamlin said the community master plan in Baltimore called for one.
“I looked around the community and what seemed to be missing was a bakery,” said Hamlin, who attended Edmondson High School and Coppin State University.
So, to balance the array of services the community offered, comes The Avenue Bakery, a place that’s usually filled with people doing a lot of praying about the distribution of the calories they’re about to consume.
“I have been baking for years and owned the Bakers Hardware property and needed to do something with it,” he said, adding that the bakery wasn’t his original plan.
And while it is already successful, it is moving toward the achievement of a much larger goal than just be a sweet stop on The Avenue.”The goal is to bring people back to Historic Pennsylvania Avenue and become a starter for the Royal Theater project,” Hamlin said.
Well it's a real benefit to the community because if you come into the 2200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, you will first of all be drawn toward the bright orange awning and the paintings of cookies and rolls vividly displayed on the parking lot in front of The Avenue Bakery, home of Poppay’s rolls. It’s a distinctive place in a neighborhood fighting its way from decay to renewal.
When you go into the bakery, you are met with all kinds of aromas that sound a danger alarm. A wiser person would walk away very quickly. The daily fresh-baked, yeast roll smell is just overpowering, not to mention the various other desserts, pies and cakes made to order in all types of flavors and sizes. Those “Poppay rolls” are largely attributable to Hamlin’s grandfather who enjoyed baking and was always searching for new recipes to delight his family.
And family is what keeps Hamlin going many family members pitch in including Brenda, his wife of almost 45 years, who can usually be found serving with a smile at the front counter.
A hot roll and a history tour. Once you’re past the bakery window, the walls are a tour of Black history in Baltimore. Photos of entertainers who graced the Royal Theater; photos of people dancing and partying at the Arch Social Club which is now in its ninth decade; photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The bakery also houses a community room to be used for meetings and gatherings of all kinds. And then behind the building, and on the side, are historical murals including the AFRO and the marquee from the Royal Theater, a stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit, and other sites from storied Pennsylvania Avenue.
Sandtown’s Simply Black and gospel group Serenity are featured in A Taste of Sandtown@The Avenue Bakery, 2 to 6 p.m., June 1 at 2229 Pennsylvania Avenue, for the benefit of the Royal Theater revitalization project. For more information, visit theavenuebakery.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-225-3881.