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On an eclair day, you can eat forever

Housed in a cottage that looks as if it came straight off a New England town square, Portland's oldest bakery looks Ñ and smells Ñ exactly like a bakery should. Manager Mike Laufer, whose parents bought the Helen Bernhard Bakery in 1988, says at least 90 percent of what he sells is made from scratch (most bakers rely on mixes or refrigerated dough). The business started in 1924, when Bernhard, wife of the minister at Grace Lutheran Church, began baking cakes for her neighbors and friends. Thirty people now work at the bakery, at 1717 N.E. Broadway. Laufer arrives at 2 a.m. and soon, he says, 'It gets very hectic' as Danish, cinnamon rolls, muffins and then bread start rolling out of the ovens. Cakes and cookies follow. Customers start arriving before 6 a.m. Laufer says the biggest rush comes before 9 a.m., with people lured by the prospect of warm doughnuts. Krispy Kreme? 'They don't scare us a bit,' Laufer says. 'Bring them on.'

Ñ Jeanie Senior