A line of four cars waited at the drive-thru window at Vallery Farmhouse Bakery on Wednesday in London. Business is booming at the new location despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The Vallery name draws in a few familiar names from outside town. Wittenberg University football coach Joe Fincham has stopped by several times while recruiting in the area. His longtime assistant coach Tom Mescher has visited. Former linebacker Brad McKinley, the third-leading tackler in Wittenberg history, has a business called McKinley Woodwork and Mercantile and is building a table for the bakery’s new sitting area, which is still under construction.
All are loyal to Eddie Vallery, who runs the bakery with his wife Victoria. Eddie does all the baking at 58 E. High St., and then Victoria decorates the many tasty treats: cupcakes, brownies, cakes, cookies, etc.
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That’s quite the departure from what both did earlier in their lives. Victoria was a licensed massage therapist. Eddie worked on his family farm near South Charleston and in agricultural construction after graduating from Wittenberg in 2011. He won the D3Football.com national defensive player of the year award as a junior in 2009 and helped lead the Tigers to their second straight 10-0 season as a senior in 2010.
Vallery, a two-time All-American defensive end who set a school record for sacks with 16½ in 2009, and Victoria sat down at the bakery after it closed for the day Wednesday to talk about the leap of faith they took in opening the bakery and then expanding it at the new location. As you might expect, Eddie wore a Wittenberg football hoodie because you never know if an old coach or a former teammate like McKinley might stop by.
“My background is a farm kid that played football,” said Vallery, who the News-Sun named one of the top seven players in school history in 2017. “Saying that I was going to own a bakery one day is kind of ridiculous, but Victoria and I believe in this. It’s more than just baking cake and selling it. There’s there’s a lot that goes into it, and that’s that’s the part that that I enjoy: building good teams and building people around you that to make things work good.”
“We have an awesome team right now,” Victoria said.
The bakery has four employees now but needs about 10, Eddie said. It’s a good problem to have. He said they dreamed about getting to this moment from the moment they opened on Oct. 31, 2017.
“When we started the bakery, it got busy really fast because Victoria is good at what she does,” Eddie said. “It caught on pretty fast, enough to the point where she couldn’t do it alone and, and I decided to go all in with her.”
The bakery business is the latest experience on a long journey for the couple. They’ve known each other since Victoria was a seventh grader and Eddie a sixth grader at Madison Plains Junior High School. They both graduated from Madison Plains High School. Victoria saw Eddie play often at Wittenberg. They married in 2012. They now have two kids: Coleston, 6, and Mariah, 4.
“We’ve been together since middle school,” Victoria said.
Victoria worked at a bakery for a short period of time, and that led to her first gig, making a cake for her sister’s wedding in 2016. One thing led to another, and soon she was making wedding cakes for friends and friends of friends.
“It just grew,” she said. “I didn’t do anything to make it grow. It just did. Then we were doing thousands of servings of cake out of our house. And (Eddie) was like, ‘This has got to either stop or you need to find a place,’ because our kitchen was just full of cake constantly. So we got the other place.”
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The bakery took off at the first location, a smaller space just down the street in London, so the Vallerys hired their first employees. Last year, they decided to move to a bigger location. Eddie started working on gutting the building and transforming it into a place where people could sit down and eat and have coffee. He shared pictures of the construction on Facebook throughout the process.
“This place is going to end up as one of the coolest projects I’ve ever done,” he wrote last July under a picture of the new roof taking shape. “It’s taken me too long to get to this point, but I’m starting to fall in love with it.”
Making the move
They were getting close to moving to the new location when the COVID-19 crisis began in March. Business slowed at the old location, which didn’t have a drive-thru window. They decided to move to the new location on April 7. Four days later, Vallery filmed himself talking about the experience in his car at home after a long day at work.
“Today we had a great day,” Vallery said. “Our last week in business here has been close to one of the best weeks we’ve ever had. I just want to thank all of the people that support us and just go out of their way to say hi or to say something to Victoria and myself about the business and how special it is to the London area.”
There have been setbacks along the way. They finished the floor in the sitting room at the new location and then had water damage. On Wednesday, there was obviously still work to be done, but there were chairs ready to be spread around, and it looked like a place the community will enjoy when the world gets back to normal. Eventually, there will be display cases for all the baked goods. The Farmhouse Brownies are particularly popular.
“Ideally, when you know when society comes back and everybody kind of feels safe to get out and walk around again,” Eddie said, “we would like to be around for that in mid-May or late May or early June, somewhere in that area.”
Eddie said they’ve been working 80 to 90 hours a week to meet the demand at the bakery and get the location ready for the full opening.
“That’s OK,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to get to this point. Now that we’re in it, we’ve just got to push harder.”
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