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The family-leavened success at Haydel's Bakery catches the eye, and the acclaim, of the Small Business Community

By Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune

51-year-old Jefferson Parish bakery that began as a doughnut shop and has grown into a popular patisserie with customers around the country has been named the family-owned business of the year by the Small Business Administration.

Haydel's Bakery on Jefferson Highway is the Jeffrey Butland Family-Business of the Year. The bakery was selected for the honor from a pool of 10 regional winners from throughout the country, after winning at the district and then regional levels, said Janie Dymond, a spokeswoman for the SBA. Dymond said the winning company is selected based on evidence of success as measured by sales and profits, increase in employment for family and nonfamily members, potential for long-term business success and economic growth, and community involvement.

Haydel's will join winners from 15 other categories and the statewide small business of the year from each state for a dinner in their honor in Washington, D.C., in May.

"We are stunned. We had to pinch ourselves," said Dottie Haydel, who co-owns the bakery with her husband, David Haydel Sr., whose father founded it. "You don't think of yourself as a story. You don't think of how far you've come because you're busy putting one foot in front of the other every day."

What is now a bakery serving bear claws, petit fours and any number of other treats began in 1959 when Lloyd Haydel purchased Sunny Flake Donut Shop, a 24-hour doughnut purveyor with a trampoline sales business. The business employed nine people at its start. The trampoline business eventually fell by the wayside, but the doughnuts were a hit, especially with truck drivers whose work frequently took them down Jefferson Highway.

"There were no bakers in the family," Dottie Haydel said. "So he hired the best bakers he could find."

Lloyd Haydel also brought his sons, David Haydel Sr. and Gary Haydel, into what became the family business.

Eventually, however, as Jefferson expanded and Clearview Parkway created a more efficient travel route for truck drivers, business began to wane at the bakery.

"When the parkway opened, the trucks took another route," said Haydel, who before marrying David Haydel Jr. worked in the bakery. The bakery had to shorten its hours. But David Haydel Sr. saw in that business shift an opportunity to expand the pastry business to include more than just doughnuts.

Today, Haydel's Bakery is perhaps best known for shipping Mardi Gras king cakes around the country. The bakery began getting requests to mail king cakes in the 1980s, when many New Orleanians relocated after the oil bust, Haydel said. Haydel's initially shipped king cake mixes, but the six-hour long process proved cumbersome to fans of the bakery, so the company partnered with UPS to begin shipping the king cakes overnight.

The bakery ships 40,000 to 60,000 king cakes outside the area each year, mostly during Carnival season. Thousands more are sold in the New Orleans area, Haydel said. Haydel's also bakes as many as 60 wedding cakes a week.

Haydel's employs 25 to 30 people full time, a number that doubles during the Mardi Gras high season.

"The bakery business is not for the faint of heart because you are season dependent," Haydel said. "The hours can be brutal."

After Katrina, the company halted its pastry operation for three weeks to bake only bread for first responders, Haydel said. The company's employees were allowed to park trailers in the bakery's parking lot.

"It's just a real good family that has worked hard in this community to make things happen," said Glenn Hayes, president and CEO of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

The business has now been introduced to a third generation of bakers, Dottie and David Haydel's sons, David Haydel Jr. and Ryan Haydel.

"I told them they had to go to college first to make sure this is what they wanted to do," Haydel said.

The younger Haydels have made innovations to the family business by improving the bakery's website and spearheading community outreach activities.

It was the sons who persuaded the family to try a baking feat last year that landed it in the Guinness Book of World Records. In September, Haydel's Bakery baked a king cake that looped twice around the Superdome. The 4,068-pound, 8.99-ounce inner ring of the cake and the 4,073-pound, 7.12-ounce outer cake is recorded as the world's largest.

Proceeds from the sale of king cake slices, about $47,000, were donated to breast cancer research.

"Between the two of them, they have creative energy," Haydel said.

Jaquetta White can be reached at jwhite@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3494.

 

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