‘BAKING IS GENEROSITY’
Herman’s Modern Bakery was founded from the ashes of World War II, soon after the Commonwealth crawled out of the stupor and misery of war in 1944. Herman R. Guerrero and his wife, Maria C. Tenorio-Guerrero, were driven by the idea that, through baking, generosity flows.
Throughout the years, that seed of an idea was nurtured and cultivated by the couple’s descendants, starting with their children—Jesus “Chung’ Guerrero, Agnes Guerrero, Herman T. Guerrero, Juan “Pan” Guerrero, Florencio “Bobby”’ Guerrero, Margarita Guerrero, Annie G. Hayes, Rudolfo Guerrero, Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero and Leonora Guerrero—who carefully reared the seeds of that idea and used it to expand some more, making the bakery a sanctuary of locally produced bread and pastries that caters to a diverse market here and abroad and as a medium to ‘give back to the community.’
According to Herman’s Modern Bakery chief executive officer Herman T. Guerrero, he and his family do not have a definite date as to when the first bakery opened 75 years ago.
“From the stories of relatives and family friends, at the tail end of the war, the Japanese and local people were gathered in Camp Susupe and Camp Chalan Kanoa and the U.S. military was looking for a baker to feed them,” he said.
“Gregorio Sablan, the grandfather of Congressman Kilili, who was a respected elder, was neighbors with my grandparents and knew that my father [Herman R. Guerrero] used to work at a Japanese bakery called ‘Shimada Bakery’ in Garapan. Sablan recommended my father,” he said.
Immediately after that, Herman R. Guerrero was conscripted by the U.S. military to bake bread to feed Camp Susupe.
Eventually, the indigenous residents were separated from the Japanese and were brought to Camp Chalan Kanoa. That is where Herman R. Guerrero expanded his customers to include the local residents.
After the war, Herman R. Guerrero continued baking and the U.S. military encouraged him to turn it into a business.
“He was given equipment and contacts of suppliers,” said HMB general manager Annie G. Hayes. “My father was actually allowed to bring in the flour and other ingredients that he needed to produce the products [everyday]. …They also suggested that he start charging perhaps 5 cents for a loaf of bread.”
Herman’s Modern Bakery was born. The first official Herman’s bakery was located near the post office in Chalan Kanoa, behind the site where the Kevin’s Department Store used to be, and this was the transition from feeding a camp to the birth of a business. It was in 1979 that the main bakery along Airport Road opened.
When the first bakery opened, generosity was but a natural part of the operations. Aside from continuing to help the community, they also gave free bread to the Mercedarian nuns and priests for a number of years until the convent started baking their own bread.
“My mother used to say that when the church asks for something, do not hesitate to give,” Herman T. Guerrero said.
He recalls that the bakery’s first customers knew when to go to the store to get freshly baked bread. “The late Bishop Camacho used to say that he could smell at a certain time of day when the bread is ready because the scent permeates though the neighborhood. People will just come and buy and for only 5 cents they can get a big loaf of bread,” he said.
“Our early products were the loaf bread, sweet bread and pastries like the Chamorro and sponge cake. …These were the products that the elders remember eating in the early years of the bakery,” he said.
As the years passed, Herman’s Modern Bakery just kept adding products that were popular with their customers.
“When we find a recipe, we develop them to do some sampling and we pick a day when we have a lot of foot traffic and then we just have it available for customers to ‘taste test’ it. It is through them that we know if a product is worth pursuing as we rely on their feedback,” Hayes said.
They also do it when a recently hired baker comes aboard, whether they have a specialty, or a particular recipe that they have done over the years.
“We would ask them, ‘What is your best product or cake that you can produce,’ then we have them do it and we do sampling. If we like it personally, then we develop it further,” Hayes added.
Over the years, Herman’s Modern Bakery has earned a lot of awards and accolades but the ones that are appreciated the most are those that are earned because of dedication and hard work. “We are the only bakery establishment on island that is U.S. military-certified. They come in periodically and if they say we need to improve on some things, we comply and submit the papers,” Herman T. Guerrero said.
The company also deals with safety issues every day because Herman’s Modern Bakery serves the man’amko (the elderly), public schools, and it needs to meet federal requirements to maintain its military certification.
As they celebrate their 75th anniversary this year, Herman T. Guerrero said the journey has always been a collaboration between his family and the entire community.
“It has been always about the community. …If you have a family and you are responsible for providing and feeding them, you want to make sure that the quality is there,” he said.
“Our parents with the help of my father’s siblings Jose and Juan and the rest family have always been baking bread for the entire community and we aim to continue and pursue that. Whether we are still around or not, the future generation of Herman’s Modern Bakery will continue to maintain the quality of our bread,” he promised.