Debus, Sander & Henry
Brothers Alexander "Sander" & Henry J. Debus founded Debus Bakery in Exeter, Nebraska, in 1923. Sons of Gottfried "Godfred" Debus & Elisabeth Kuxhausen, Sander had been born in the Volga German colony of Kukkus on 14 May 1889; Henry born there on 6 July 1891.
Founded in 1923 in Exeter, Nebraska, the Debus Bakery operation's first location in Hastings was in the Thomas Bakery at 219 N. Lincoln Ave., which Debus had purchased in 1924. A $50,000 baking factory at First Street and Colorado Avenue was built in 1926.
The company opened a new bakery and warehouse at Elm Avenue and Highway 6 in 1951. The one-story structure with a partial basement was constructed of reinforced concrete, brick, and a mill type roof construction. Measuring 187 feet by 279 feet, the building cost more than $200,000 to complete and was used to house the bakery, offices, warehouse, and garage of the company.
Marking its 31st year in business, Debus opened a new 92,000-square-foot building at 317 S. Elm Ave. in 1954. At the time, the company produced 45,000 loaves of bread for daily distribution, along with 15,000 packages of rolls and thousands of doughnuts prepared daily.
By 1954, Debus had 14 terminal distribution points across the state. Forty-seven route trucks serviced the distribution points, which were in Kearney, North Platte, Superior, Aurora, St. Paul, Central City, Hebron, McCook, Geneva, Alma, and Holdrege.
During its first year at the new factory, Debus produced 14 million loaves of bread, with sales topping $3 million. Nearly the entire process was handled by machinery, conveyor belts or carts with wheels. Much of the new machinery in the building was designed by Sander Debus.
Originally a small 35-man operation, the bakery grew to employ 175 people in 1954.
The company added to its line of products in 1956 to include buns and sweet rolls. With its new lines, it added five delivery trucks to accommodate increased production, increasing the total number of vehicles in its fleet to 85.
By 1960, the company employed more than 200 people, including 150 in Hastings.
In Feburary 1964, Metz Baking Co. of Sioux City, Iowa, purchased the Debus Baking plant in Hastings. Despite economic struggles in Hastings during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company grew to more than 220 employees by February 1984. By 1988, that number had dropped to 150 employees, with 130 working full time and 20 part time.
In 1999, Metz Baking was purchased by Earth Grains, which was then purchased by Sara Lee in 2002. Bimbo Bakeries bought the Hastings location from Sara Lee in 2011. The facility in Hastings was closed in 2016.