TRAVERSE CITY — There's something about Potter's Bakery that draws Larry Street through its doors every morning, a trek he's made for more than 30 years.
It might be the nose-tickling fresh doughnuts. Or the crisp aroma of a good cup of coffee. Or maybe the smiling faces of the two women at the store's counter who greet him by name every day.
It's all that and much more, he said.
The family-owned bakery made its reputation on consistency and friendly service for 85 years — since it opened in February 1929, said Kathy Potter, co-owner of the company that now boasts two stores -- on Eighth and Hall streets in Traverse City.
Norm and Julia Potter opened the first store on Front Street in 1928, but soon were forced to close because of sugar rations. After a short hiatus, the couple re-opened their namesake bakery and it hasn't closed since.
Street waited in a short line at the Eighth Street shop on Wednesday morning, shook off the chill from the street, and eyed two display cases that burst with row-after-row of fresh doughnuts, fritters and Danish.
Customers ahead of him crouched to poke at the cases, seemingly desperate to narrow their selections from all the delicious choices.
Fannie Wyckoff flitted from side-to-side behind the counter alongside her coworker, Linda Carrell, and filled bags and boxes with pastries.
Potter watched while the racks of doughnuts emptied amid the morning rush.
She is quick to point out that the bakery's recipes changed little since her husband Mike's grandparents opened the first Potter's Bakery.
The only changes since then have been minor tweaks to recipes when ingredients disappeared from the market.
"People don't like change," she said. "We only change when suppliers change."
But staying the same wasn't always easy.
The couple inherited responsibility for running the growing business about 30 years ago when both Mike Potter's father and grandfather unexpectedly died. Mike and Kathy Potter had been involved with the business as bakers, but never expected to be at the helm so quickly.
"It's been hard," Kathy Potter said. "But our kids grew up seeing two parents who worked hard."
She grew up across the street from the main bakery location and began working there when she was 18.
Today, Mike Potter starts work at about 3 a.m. and runs a crew of bakers. The couple stuck to tradition through food fads that replaced butter with shortening and now have reversed the change. They sold the bakery's breads wholesale to grocery stores whose representatives sometimes asked them to use preservatives to extend shelf-life.
It was a move that would have departed from the bakery's tried-and-true recipes and just didn't make sense.
"If you can't pronounce it, you shouldn't eat it," Kathy Potter said.
The bakery section of the Eighth Street location overflows with things done the old way. Aside from a new oven, there aren't many computerized gizmos in the room built around a long, butcher-block table.
From the racks of cookie cutters on a wall near the door to the 60-year-old German mixer that stands along the wall opposite, everything is done according to tradition.
"It has a little tick in it, but it still works," Kathy Potter said of the hulking piece of kitchen equipment. "The hardest thing for us is this modern technology and becoming more computerized."
The couple spent the past decade trying to keep up with technology while preserving face-to-face service customers expect from them.
"Everybody in town knows Potter's Bakery," Street said, after Potter slipped a bag containing his current "usual" into his hand. This month, Street partakes in a chocolate-frosted Long John each morning on his way to work.
Next month it will be something different.
"I try to keep them on their toes," Street said. "They make the best."
He stops at the Eighth Street location to pick up breakfast each day on his way to work. It's a routine Street hasn't abandoned in more than 32 years — since before he opened his own business.
He's like many of the bakery's devotees who make a daily pilgrimage to the pastry-laden counter.
Wyckoff called out a farewell to Street as he walked out the bakery's doors. Then she began to serve her next customer — another regular named Alex.
He has been a customer for at least 16 years, she said.