A new business has successfully stepped into the void left by the closing of a beloved Waynedale institution.
The Hello Sunshine Bakery has been operating at the Waynedale Bakery’s old location, 2610 Lower Huntington Road, since early February, the company’s owner and operator said.
“Business has been great since we opened,” noted Kathleen Steenport, the shop’s proprietor, “So many people have been so supportive. In fact, some people have said they didn’t even know we had been closed.”
One fact Steenport likes to stress, however, is that her shop – unlike the Waynedale Bakery – does not sell donuts.
“People are always expecting me to have donuts,” she said with a chuckle, “but I don’t even have a deep fryer.
“But we do have scones, cookies, brownies, muffins and cinnamon rolls, which are one of our top sellers.”
She said trying to recreate exactly what the Waynedale Bakery did so successfully for so many years would have been a foolish endeavor, so she’s been more focused on crafting her own creations – and identity.
“The Waynedale Bakery was here for so long, and they had their own specialties, and I can’t do that exactly. But I have my own creations, and everyone has been super pleased with how we fulfill what they ask for.”
The old Waynedale Bakery operated in essentially the same spot since 1955, not just offering baked goods, pastries, and doughnuts to the Waynedale populace, but a place to socialize and congregate, as well.
In 2002, former bakery delivery driver Hal Clinger bought the shop with his daughter, Christine, making them the fourth owners of the business in its 65 years of existence.
Clinger was forced to shutter the business in November 2019, citing health reasons.
“It’s a dying business, you know?” he noted back then. “People want faster stuff. But you come in, it smells, and the lunches we used to serve and the people we’d meet. That’s the thing, the people that you meet, the relationships you make with people.”
When Steenport saw the opportunity of an empty bakery a couple of years ago, she jumped at the chance. The 50-year-old had been laboring as an office worker at the Fort Wayne Neurological Center, but was determined to pursue her life-long dream of owning and operating a bakery.
She opened Hello Sunshine’s doors in early February of this year, manning the shop with two part-time workers, and the much-needed help of family and friends.
Since opening, Steenport has revamped much of the old building, painting big swaths of the interior, replacing some of the ceiling tiles, installing new lighting and countertops, and beginning the work to repave and remark the parking lot behind the store.
She also plans to convert a storage area inside the shop into additional seating for the café, adding about 10 seats to the 10 already there, she said.
“Everyone says how great it looks,” she noted with pride.
The shop also offers coffee from the Landing Zone coffee shop inside their business; in-house roasting of the coffee beans is done by Coffee with Friends, Steenport said.
In fact, according to Brent Belote, owner of the building where Hello Sunshine is headquartered said folks can pull in the bakery’s parking lot behind the business on Wednesday and Thursday nights and catch the warm aroma of the shop’s coffee beans being roasted.
He said the whole venture of the new Hello Sunshine shop so far has been enjoyable. “It’s just been a lot of fun doing this with Kathleen,” Belote noted.
Steenport said her dream of bringing a new bakery to Waynedale not only was beneficial to her, but to the community at large, as well.
“It’s important,” Steenport said, “because the town needed it. We’re getting a lot of younger people stopping in for our coffee. There’s been a lot of walk-in traffic, a lot of buzz around us.”
Hello Sunshine’s success shows the opportunity Waynedale represents, Belote explained.
“Waynedale is not going downhill,” he said, “We’re holding our own. And there’s a definite need in Waynedale for a place like this.
“You know, we’ve got a dance studio, a barber shop, a meat market; it’s all about community and hopefully a lot more people will make this their new meeting spot.”
Hours for the new shop are Tuesday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The shop also opens on Tuesday nights, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For now, Belote is just grateful for all the support.
“Waynedale is great,” Belote said, “just a very supportive community. And we want to thank them for all their support.