Five Generations of Paducah Bakers Create Edible Art

Kirchoff Bakery and Deli co-owner shows off a hefty deli creation. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

By Tom Adkinson

Kirchoff Bakery and Deli co-owner shows off a hefty deli creation. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

PADUCAH, Ky. – The fabric art at Paducah’s National Quilt Museum is known internationally, but not three blocks away is art of a completely different kind that has been building a reputation since 1873. 

It is art created fresh every day. More precisely, it is art baked fresh every day.

The location is Kirchoff’s Bakery and Deli on Marine Way, where the original culinary artist was a young Prussian immigrant named Franz Kirchoff. He and his young bride, Hannah Baumer, baked in a wood-fired oven and sent the aromas of fresh bread wafting through downtown.

Their bakery was only a short distance from the mighty Ohio River, and whenever Franz would hear a whistle as a steamboat pulled in to dock, he would scurry down to greet passengers and crew with a cart laden with baked goods.

Returning patrons know that many Kirchoff sandwiches are sharable. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

One of the red brick walls of the bakery now showcases portraits of Franz and four more generations of Kirchoff bakers who built a tasty legacy in Paducah and the surrounding region.

The Kirchoff operation grew over the years and became a major commercial bakery with its own fleet of delivery trucks that carried loaf bread, pies, cakes, biscuits, buns and other items to an array of grocery stores.

Those days are gone, but the Kirchoff appeal remains large for people who visit the Market Square area. 

They may come for the quilt museum, the display of murals on the Ohio River floodwall, the Paducah Railroad Museum or an event at the Carson Center for the Performing Arts, but the smart ones include a stop at Kirchoff’s.

Five generations of Kirchoff bakers look out from the bakery’s brick walls. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

At minimum, Kirchoff’s is a place to indulge your sweet tooth with made-from-scratch cookies  (gingerbread and iced shortbread are popular), fresh pies (chocolate bourbon pecan pie has a special Kentucky accent) and two-layer cakes (chocolate, red velvet and a Maker’s Mark bourbon chocolate cake among them).

Specialty breads, of course, are perhaps the biggest attraction. Among them are sourdough, Heidelberg rye, Jewish rye, country French, French baguettes and cranberry walnut. Holiday items include penettone (a sweet Italian bread) and stolen (a German fruit bread with nuts).

Midday sandwich, soup and salad options attract even more people. Experienced patrons know that a single Kirchoff deli sandwich quite possibly is a meal for two.

Examples are fried green tomato BLT on sourdough, corned beef or turkey Reuben on Heidelberg rye, ham and brie on cranberry walnut, turkey artichoke on garlic roasted focaccia and an Ybor City-style Cuban on handmade Cuban bread.

A Kirchoff cashier shows off the bakery’s motto: “Eat Art.” (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

All of the options inside this historic locally owned business make it easy to act on the Kirchoff motto of “Eat Art.”

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Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

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