NEW BETHLEHEM — Noticing that patrons enjoyed sipping a cup of coffee while shopping, the owner of the Valley Flowers and Gifts in New Bethlehem hit on the idea of opening a bakery next door. After a brief false start and a few months of regrouping, The Bakery on Broad is open for business and getting ready for its grand opening on May 17.
Renee Rapp-Minsterman and her indispensable operations manager, Tiffany Hopper, found themselves with an enthusiastic and loyal regular clientele, townspeople and those passing through town on the way to somewhere else. Now open on Thursdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., the bakery offers cinnamon rolls on a regular basis as well as scones, cookies and more.
One of the best sellers is Shirley Peanut Butter Rolls, a treat baked for her family by Rapp’s grandmother, named in her honor, and now enjoyed by bakery customers. In a town sustained by the jobs and products of Smucker’s peanut butter factory, few goodies come close to their popularity.
As with peanut butter and sweet rolls, Rapp said, “The two businesses are a natural fit, especially since they are connected by a common doorway. Customers come into the flower shop and stroll over to the bakery for coffee and a quick bite. Bakery customers come in for a snack, wander over to the other side to look around and end up buying a little something.”
Visitors to the flower shop enjoy the restoration miracle that Rapp, her family and friends performed on a vintage storefront. Original wooden floors were refinished, an early 1900s tin ceiling exposed. The adjoining bakery will receive the same loving attention in the future.
Vintage French doors divide the two spaces, and antique doors are a big part of the present décor in the bakery, along with an ancient gas cookstove now serving as a sidebar and coffee station behind the bakery counter.
Rapp and her staff are busy churning out a neverending stream of doughnuts, rolls, raspberry cream-cheese pastries and oatmeal raisin creme-filled cookies. The Bakery on Board also takes special orders for graduation and holiday cakes and cupcakes.
“Our cakes are pretty simple and basic because our decorating capacity is limited,” Rapp said. “And we like to keep things simple and natural – sugar, flour, eggs, salt and milk.”
The bakery is a small operation with only two ovens. While Rapp and Hopper often get requests for gluten-free, paleo and no-sugar baked goods, they are beyond what the facility can produce.
“Really, to be genuinely gluten-free,” Hopper said, “everything would have to be baked in a separate and dedicated work area. We do not have the space or equipment for that right now.”
Rapp said, “We bake everything fresh every day. Neither of us likes wasting food, especially in a world where many people do not have a meal.”
This is one of the reasons that the bakery is only open three days a week. Unsold treats are offered at a discount the next day. On Saturdays, Rapp and Hopper donate whatever is left at the close of business to local nonprofit organizations having a social event that evening.
The other major reason is a relative lack of dedicated and skilled people willing to start work at 4 a.m. Fortunately, Rapp and Hopper can rely on lead baker Terry Hopper to show up every morning, along with her assistant and customer service associate, Mary Ozoskey.
“It is hard finding people willing to work and who have even basic baking skills,” Rapp said. “That was why we were open only briefly last year.”
Rapp and Hopper are expecting smoother sailing the second time around. The bakery is a work in progress and additional store hours may appear in the future.
“But we cannot complain,” Rapp said. “Our location is almost perfect. We are near one of the two stoplights in town, and we get through-traffic from either direction – people driving between DuBois and Pittsburgh, for the most part.”
And then there is the local foot traffic, residents ready to enjoy a downtown bakery again. The former Fabra’s Bakery, on the opposite side of the street and up a few blocks from the Bakery on Board, closed several decades ago.
Customers are sometimes disappointed when they find that their favorite goodies are sold out. Rapp noted that ordering a day ahead for pick-up is a good way to ensure not missing out on those famous peanut butter rolls.
More information about The Bakery on Broad can be found on its Facebook page or by calling (814) 275-1114.