(Photo by Sarrah Peters/Messenger: Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton presents Cothran’s Bakery owner Chris Cothran with a proclamation in honor of the bakery’s designation as the Sweetest Bakery in Alabama in a national contest held by Dawn Food Products, Inc.)
By Sarrah Peters
On Friday, September 14, Cothran’s Bakery celebrated National Bakery Day with some exciting news. The bakery was named the Sweetest Bakery in Alabama in a national contest hosted by Dawn Food Products, Inc.
The contest to find the best bakeries in the nation started May 1, and once a day with each device people could vote for their favorite bakeries online. Votes were also accepted at the store. Voting ended at the end of July and votes were tallied throughout August. The contest announced three national winners and the top bakeries in each state. The announcement last Friday came as a surprise to Cothran’s Bakery owner Chris Cothran.
“It was somewhat unexpected,” said Cothran. “We were in the top five, but we were competing against a grocery store chain that we really did not think we would beat out. We were thrilled with this, and we were more than thrilled to have the honor of bringing it back to Gadsden.”
This past August, Cothran’s Bakery celebrated 56 years of business in Gadsden. The shop, well-known for its donuts, began as a Shipley Donut franchise on Forrest Avenue. The bakery relocated to 440 George Wallace Drive in East Gadsden before becoming an independent bakery in 1994 with a name change to Cothran’s Bakery. The bakery also began expanding its products, offering cakes, cookies, pastries and more in addition to its donuts.
The bakery is in its third generation of family ownership. Current owner Chris Cothran purchased the shop from his uncle, and the business was previously owned by his grandparents. Cothran started working at the bakery in high school and pursued political science for a short period after graduating from college before returning to the bakery he grew up with, where he has remained for about 24 years.
Even as the business owner, Cothran still enjoys baking the sweet confections.
“It’s peaceful back there,” said Cothran. “Truthfully, I enjoy making the donuts at night. That’s the one shift that just flies by.”
Cothran credits his employee for making the bakery a success. With another Cothran’s Bakery in Boaz, the two stores have just over 20 employees, the majority of which are full-time.
“On the donut line, it’s the time we put into it,” said Cothran about why the baked goods get such good reviews. “The way you handle the dough and the time that goes into letting it proof and rise that, to me, is what makes our product better. You can use an automated line and speed it up, but you’re going to lose out on some quality. And that’s why we still do it by hand. I think the same thing could be said on our cakes and cookies. On those items, we use top quality ingredients. They (customers) understand that we’re baking it fresh and we’re using quality ingredients.”
On Tuesday, September 18, Cothran’s Bakery was honored at the Gadsden City Council meeting and Cothran was presented with a proclamation in honor of its designation as the Sweetest Bakery in Alabama.