L.W. McNutt Jr.

Although he did not invent the fruitcake, Bill McNutt’s claim to culinary fame is having made the cake ubiquitous. Along the way he managed to reinvigorate the mail order business introducing computerized mailing lists, direct consumer marketing and efficient shipping methods. All this back in 1958. So if you marvel at the ability to order gourmet cheese out of a fancy food magazine and have it arrive at your door a few days latter, you have Mr. McNutt and his passion for fruitcake to thank.

The Collin Street Bakery opened in 1896 in the then oil boomtown of Corsicana Texas. McNutt’s father Lee William bought the bakery in 1946. When Mr. McNutt joined the family business, Collin Street Bakery was essentially a regional bread supplier. McNutt, however, had bigger plans and he shifted the focus to mail-order sales of the specialty DeLuxe Fruitcake. The recipe had been in the business since the founder Gus Weidman started selling them in back in the 1890’s and had long since garnered a wide reputation thanks to traveling luminaries such as Enrico Caruso, Will Rogers and Ringling Brothers circus performers all of whom would leave town with dozens of the cakes to extend as gifts while on tour.

A stickler for details who insisted on quality and customer service, McNutt bought a local pecan processor and an organic pineapple farm in Costa Rica to ensure a steady supply of ingredients for the DeLuxe Fruitcake. He was quick to recognize the value of emerging technologies and was an early adopter of phone, fax and then Internet ordering systems. At the start he would have employees copy names and addresses into the company’s database from phone books from across the country in so doing blazed a mail order path that many companies from Lands End to Amazon have emulated.

The bakery boasts in excess of one million customers in its database and a veritable who’s who of celebrity clients who continue the tradition of placing large orders to extend as gifts. So whether or not you are one to relish the arrival of fruitcake in your mailbox or simply re-gift the dense cake jam packed with candied fruits and nuts, you must pay a debt of gratitude to a pioneer and visionary who laid the foundation for the vast mail order market of specialty foods and beyond all the while pursuing his passion for fruitcake.

L.W. McNutt Jr. Born 1925 Deceased 2006

Collin Street Bakery website

(pictures on this page courtesy of Colin Street bakery)

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