Street Bakery president and chairman L. William (Bill) McNutt Jr.
will be inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame Wednesday in
Dallas. Daily Sun photo/KIRK SIDES
receives honor: sweet rewards for former Collin Street Bakery
By RAYMOND LINEX II/Daily Sun Staff
In all his years helping establish the
Collin Street Bakery as one of the sweetest company names to roll
off taste buds anywhere, L. William (Bill) McNutt, Jr. has
introduced a number of grand ideas. Killing the elevator was not one
"As I get older, I regret that decision
every time I walk up those stairs," he said.
That's because McNutt, who won't give his
age but played football at Corsicana High for legendary coach Johnny
Pierce ('25 to '41), still goes to work each day, taking those steps
to his second floor office just as he did thousands of times before
the previous four decades.
Wednesday in Dallas, McNutt will be
inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame, joining the likes of
former President George Bush, former governors Bill Clements and
Dolph Briscoe Jr. and fellow entrepreneurs Ross Perot and Michael
In the mid-'60s, when plans were being made
for the current building, it was Bill Jr. who suggested one way to
trim from an overbudget project would be the elimination of the
proposed elevator. Had he only known how lucrative a future idea --
marketing this small town's icon internationally -- would have been,
he would have probably left the elevator plans alone.
Today, Collin Street Bakery does more than
$30 million in sales, more than 20 percent of that coming from
abroad, McNutt said. It's marquee item remains the Deluxe Fruitcake,
"A Christmas favorite since 1896 ..." sales brochures proclaim.
"Since 1934 we've used the same design on
the lid of our fruitcake cans; nobody ever throws them away," he
said. "There are millions and millions of them all around the world
as a continual reminder. I don't care where you go on Earth, if you
say Corsicana often enough and loud enough somebody's going to say,
'That's where the fruitcake comes from.'
"I'm sure it's the most popular Christmas
cake on Earth."
McNutt graduated from CHS and Montgomery
Bell Academy in Nashville and served in the Army in WWII, all before
graduating from Vanderbilt University.
After college, he began working at a
family-owned Dr Pepper bottling company in Tennessee, later owning
Then, he agonized over the toughest
decision of his life.
"It's the only time I ever had ulcers in my
mouth," he said.
In July of 1958, McNutt decided to move his
family to Corsicana and join the bakery. In 1967, he became the
company's president, and in the late '60s and early '70s began to
ponder the idea of marketing worldwide. Deluxe Fruitcakes were
already being sold overseas without promotion.
That initiative led the bakery to grow from
sales of about 300,000 pounds of goods to more than 4 million today.
The company ships to 196 countries, everywhere but Iran and Cuba,
where mail service is not available, McNutt said.
As for today, McNutt, who has turned the
reins of the company over to son Bob, logs about five hours a day in
His role is not the same. "Cheerleader," he
said, adding, "A cheerleader with veto power."
But he spent thousands of hours making the
family business a respected worldwide bakery, one that owns many of
its own ingredient producers.
"My wife Josephine is the most supportive
wife you could ever have," McNutt said. "She never complained. When
we came over and I had the long hours for a number of years, she
Honors have been plenty. Bush, whom McNutt
called a good friend, presented him with the United States Commerce
Department E award for excellence in exporting in 1981.
Three times the bakery has been awarded
gold medals by Monde Selection of Geneva, Switzerland for the
Deluxe. In 1996, the Institute for Family Business at Baylor
University named the bakery the Outstanding Family Business of the
Year, and the New York Gourmet Society recognized the bakery for
Another source of pride for McNutt is the
bakery's Corsicana shop, which, nestled underneath his office,
recorded 250,000 transactions, he said. Each transaction, the bakery
figures, represents two and a half visitors to the shop.
"It's a weekend destination," he said.
McNutt said the secret of the bakery's
success is a fantastic product -- the Deluxe's recipe's been the
same for decades -- backed by good service and dedicated employees.
"We have fantastic people," he said. "They
are the backbone."
McNutt said in his acceptance speech
Wednesday he will take all the credit, all of two percent. It's a
people business, he said.
More evidence of that success can be found
all over the world, where Deluxe fruitcake tins pop up in the
strangest of places. While once attending the Super Bowl in Detroit,
McNutt visited a historic house and saw one of the tins. It was used
to house receipts.
While boating near the Bahamas, McNutt
pulled up to a small, remote island inhabited by an heir to the
Johnson Wax fortune, his wife and one child. An artist, Johnson gave
McNutt a tour, one that included a journey through his shop. There,
a Deluxe tin contained nuts and bolts.
"He said his daughter lived in
Massachusetts and sent him one every year," McNutt said.
When his children attended SMU, he said,
almost all the kids in the dormitory used a Deluxe tin for
"We ship an average now of a million and
half (tins) a year," McNutt said. "They're in so many places you
wouldn't believe it."
McNutt certainly never would have back in
the days when cutting the elevator was necessary. He never
envisioned the bakery becoming such big business, that it would put
Corsicana on the world map.
Working those long hours, meeting
presidents and movie stars and attending Super Bowls and Rose Bowls
never drove him. He never gave the Texas Business Hall of Fame much
"I was very surprised" by the Hall of Fame
nod, he said. "A couple of fellows I didn't know showed up to see
me. I said, 'I hope they're not process servers.' They were here to
tell me of the honor; it was surprising and honestly appreciated.
"There are a lot of great Texans who have
been honored in this way."
Raymond Linex II may be contacted via
Hall welcomes fruitcake king: McNutt Jr. graciously takes place in
Texas' business history
RAYMOND LINEX II/Daily Sun Staff
DALLAS -- With a pinch of glitz, a smidgen
of humor and sack full of compassion and humility, Corsicana's Bill
McNutt Jr., retired president and chairman of Collin Street Bakery,
joined Texas' finest businessmen and women Wednesday night.
Amongst family and friends and 800 other
guests at the Hyatt Regency, McNutt took his place along with four
other honorees for induction into the Texas Business Hall of Fame,
the 20th class to do so. McNutt, whose international marketing
vision made the Deluxe fruitcake and its home household names
worldwide, earned the distinction of being the only non-oil and gas
or concrete guru so honored.
"I'm grateful, I'm thankful, but I probably
don't deserve this," McNutt said, "but I'm going to accept it."
The former Corsicana Tiger and faithful
sports enthusiast often tickled the funny bone during a poignant
acceptance speech in which he thanked everyone from his dad Lee and
wife Josephine to the employees of the bakery, who equally bore a
measure of credit for the success of the community's 106-year-old
establishment, he said.
Personally, McNutt said, a simple business
philosophy had paved his way to success.
"I have an open door policy," he said. "My
office has a glass wall and the door is open at all times."
McNutt was joined by fellow inductees
William E. Greehey of San Antonio, chairman and CEO of Valero Energy
Corporation; Louis A. Beecherl Jr. of Dallas, retired chairman and
chief executive of Texas Oil and Gas; Robert J. "Bob" Allison Jr.,
chairman of the board of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; and Robert
D. "Bob" Rogers, CEO of Texas Industries, Inc., which has a plant in
The black-tie event drew a number of past
honorees, including McNutt friend Lamar Hunt, and paid tribute to 14
scholarship winners, the future of Texas business, master of
ceremonies Tony Brigmon said. Each 2002 inductee received a
well-deserved portion of the event's time, first by way of a
highlight video complete with interviews of friends, family and
business associates, and secondly through ample time to deliver some
well-crafted speeches, others straight-from-the-hip. Beecherl
introduced all eight of his children, but stopped short of naming
all 30 grandchildren.
McNutt's video opened with the line, you'll
never "hear a more delicious tale." Bob McNutt, Bill's son and
current bakery president, followed by saying his dad was a very good
people person, and later would add Bill's "only set back was that I
was the third child, and he had to wait that long to get a
McNutt, once he was given screen time,
explained the overseas shipping of the Deluxe fruitcake actually
began in 1906, when members of the Ringling Brothers circus stayed
atop the bakery, and sent fruitcakes to friends as Christmas gifts.
Shipping cakes overseas went into overdrive when McNutt, who joined
the bakery in 1958 and became president in 1967, began exploring
marketing overseas in the late '60s and early '70s and business went
from 300,000 pounds shipped a year to 4 million.
"He was just a young man at that time, but
he had a lot of knowledge," 67-year bakery employee Maurice Pollack
Employee Linda Michelle said McNutt made
every employee "feel special," and Bob closed the segment with
another trademark McNutt line: "There's just a certain time in your
life when you're ready for a fruitcake."
McNutt then took his turn on stage, the
fourth of five, for the final step on his way to Texas business
"I've traveled a windy path to this
podium," he said, "... but always with the Collin Street Bakery as a
The Texas Business Hall of Fame is
celebrating its 20th year. Located in Houston, it has more than 120
Raymond Linex II may be contacted via
e-mail at [email protected]
Reprinted with permission of the Corsicana Daily Sun
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