The sweet legacy of Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery began in 1964, when Ludger Schultz started his culinary apprenticeship in Munster, Germany.
Over the years, he worked in the kitchens of famous hotels around Europe: Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland. He worked his way to North America, eventually landing in Tulsa, where Ludger opened his own restaurant + catering business.
Today, Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery is owned by Allison Dickens and her husband Chris.
Did Allison always dream of taking over her parents bakery business? Well, not quite — but we’ll let her take it from here:
“Honestly, I don't think I ever anticipated that this would be my future. I definitely don't mean that as a negative comment either.
I did grow up in a family surrounded by small business owners. My parents owned a small business and so did a lot of their friends, but I still had my own path that I had planned to take.
I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and did the corporate thing for a while. I don't think I fully understood the benefit of being involved in a family business and having a small business where you have some flexibility for family time and all of that until I had my own kids.
We had our first child in 2007 and at that time [Ludger + Alecia] had started talking about retiring. It was really hard to imagine them selling off something that they had worked so hard to create, so I moved over and worked for them just to see if that future was a possibility. A year later my husband moved over and then we bought it in 2010.”
That’s a big leap from mechanical engineering to a baking.
“Yeah, it is but I have to say I actually use the process thinking and a lot of the different things that I studied and learned about in engineering on a daily basis as a small business owner.
We have all sorts of different processes setup and in place for daily business. For example, we have online orders that come in. We have a whole process set up for those to be automatically printed. But then we have checks and balances in place in order to know that they printed and have been addressed. So I still am using my brain in that capacity for sure.”
Do you do any baking or do you just run operations?
“I used to decorate. I am retired from decorating now - someone needed to be the full time office person. But originally when we first started out, it was just my husband and myself and Ludger.
We hired another decorator once things started to grow and I needed to be able to handle some office stuff. So then we had two – me and someone else. As we continued to grow we just eventually hired more decorators and I fully stepped back from decorating.
My husband does do the baking. We do have another dedicated baker, but the recipe for our Bavarian Cream Cheesecake, which is what we're known for, is a secret, so he's the only one that makes all of those.”
What is the Bavarian Cream Cheesecake?
“Well Ludger, the founder and my step-father, created it. It's basically an Americanized version of a dessert that he grew up with in Germany called kasekuchen, which literally translated means cheesecake, but it is a cake dessert.
It’s a cream-filled cake: it's got sponge cake on the top and the bottom with the Bavarian cream cheese filling. And we have it in a lot of flavors. We do all of our wedding cakes out of it. It's definitely it's our signature item.”
That sounds delicious! Do you have any memorable stories of customers involving your cakes?
“We had a bride who is from Tulsa but she was getting married in St. Louis. She loved our cakes so much that she paid to have it delivered to St. Louis for her wedding.
In this case it wasn't a decorated stacked cake because there's no way to do it that way (although we do get asked that all the time).
And then with Valentine’s Day just having passed, I think that’s something that definitely highlights tradition. We have a cake that we do every single year, and we see the same people order those cakes every year. So it’s fun to be able to see that people have incorporated us into their traditions.”
What’s your favorite part of being a small business in Tulsa?
“A sense of community. We moved to the current building that we're in just a little over a year ago and it was a super scary move.
I think anytime you're just completely moving something and you're spending all this money and you build out everything, it's a little bit nerve racking. When you open your doors that first day, you’re wondering, ‘Are people going to come?’ And we ended up even having to delay our grand opening due to some contractor issues.
But our customers were amazing. It was so heartwarming to see how supportive they were and understanding when maybe things weren't happening as fast as we wanted them to.
Even while we were open that first week, we were doing a new breakfast and lunch menu for the first time. Everybody was so kind with feedback and patient with us while we worked out the kinks of having a brand new menu. Same thing when we added a drive through.
It is very humbling to see how much our community wants the small businesses that are located here to succeed.”
I think Support like that is a testament To who you guys are as a business.
“Well, I agree. Ludger is an extremely genuine person who makes a friend out of everyone he meets. It's very rare to go somewhere with him where somebody doesn't recognize him and come over to shake his hand and tell him a story about when he did their daughter's wedding cake or whatever the story might be.
We feel like it's important for our customers to always have that same experience where they feel connected to us on a personal level and not just as customer and client type relationship.”
When you support shops like Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery, you’re supporting your neighbors AND making new friends! Connect with Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery and other local businesses on Towny, the free app that rewards you for exploring Tulsa and shopping local. Check out Towny online or download the free phone app.