Running a business was a day-to-day, week-to-week proposition for Robert and Danielle Hyott.
After choosing a location for their Main Street Bakery and Coffee in the heart of Delta, the Hyotts underwent a grueling inspection process that ate through their investment money and required loans and additional financial assistance. After finally opening for business last September, they were hit this summer with an unexpected expense that threatens to close them permanently.
So the couple was more than a bit surprised when their adopted community dived in to help save what has become an endearing part of the village.
“It leaves you speechless. You don’t expect that,” Robert Hyott said. “The surrounding community and beyond have definitely embraced our place and are doing everything they can to keep it open. The people have been awesome.”
The Hyotts moved from Toledo to Delta in 2012 with money to invest and lots of possibilities. Three years later, they decided to bet on themselves.
“Danielle’s baking really stuck out in my mind as something we could sell,” Hyott said.
They distributed samples of her pastries to friends and community members and received overwhelmingly positive response. So the Hyotts decided to lease the lower portion of the village’s Masonic Lodge building at 400 W. Main St. and transform it into a combination bakery and coffee shop.
What they didn’t anticipate was the long, expensive process associated with complying with building codes and inspectors. For the next 2 1/2 years the Hyotts pumped money into transforming over 2,000 square feet of space into their dream business.
“The inspection was a very grueling process. There’s a lot of rules and regulations,” Hyott said. “We pretty much gutted the place. We took a building that was not a restaurant and turned it into a restaurant.”
Even though they began their venture with six figures in capital, the process broke the Hyotts financially. But they managed to open Main Street Bakery and Coffee on Sept. 21, 2017. And the community responded.
“We had a line that actually went out the door and around to the side of the building. It was overwhelming,” Hyott said.
The business operated seven days a week, selling doughnuts, muffins, pastries, bread, and ice cream. And, of course, coffee. It also sold its doughnuts wholesale to Grandma’s General Store in Liberty Center. Robert, who works full-time for Stoneco, a quarry in Ottawa Lake, Mich., left the daily operation to Danielle, lending a hand when he could.
Eventually, the Hyotts realized that customers were gravitating toward the bakery’s homemade doughnuts. They drew people from Toledo, Cleveland, Lima, and Bowling Green, and even from as far as North Carolina and Connecticut.
“When people are coming from that distance for handmade doughnuts, it speaks volumes about the product,” Hyott said.
However, the shop endured a tough winter, in part due to its lack of a drive-through window. Getting people to leave the comfort and convenience of their vehicles proved to be an unexpected factor.
Changing their business hours, which turned the shop into more of a morning enterprise, helped somewhat. But the cost of operation was daunting.
“You start trying to make a decision whether it was worth keeping open,” Hyott said. “We were just basically on a hope and a prayer, and we said let’s keep going.”
Then in early summer the bakery received a visit from Delta’s fire chief. He had received word from the state fire marshal that Main Street Bakery and Coffee had to install a suppression system, which extinguishes any fires the bakery’s doughnut fryer might cause. It was a regulation not mandated at the time the business opened.
The cost: $5,800. “We didn’t have a rainy day fund to fall back on,” Hyott said.
The Hyotts announced on social media that their last day of business would be Sept. 22, 2018, also the first anniversary of the bakery’s opening. “We have tried to figure out different options to keep us in the game, but nothing is working out in our favor at this time. We are by no means done with our business. We will basically be taking a break and figuring out a better way,” the statement said before thanking the community for its support.
The Hyotts didn’t expect their announcement to generate 42,000 views. They also didn’t foresee what came next – an outpouring by their community to keep Main Street Bakery and Coffee open.
The charge was initiated by Wauseon resident and Delta native Cammie Tripp. She saw the closing notice on social media and realized “everybody kept suggesting ideas but nobody was making any moves.” So on Aug. 23 she opened a $10,000 GoFundMe account online. Within the first four days, 57 people contributed $1,888.
“It just exploded,” Tripp said. “My heart was just telling me, ‘Go for it.’ I’m doing it because I would like to see small businesses bloom. Delta is a small community with not a lot of businesses. The village loves that place, and it needs it.”
Delta resident Joyce Pacak also lent her support by placing a donation jar in the bakery that generated over $500 in cash in the first two days.
“These kids have worked so hard to make this bakery work…I feel they deserve help from the community to keep this place going,” she said. “It’s been very nice for the community to have a bakery in town. Please help them keep it open.”
Since posting their closing date, the Hyotts have also received offers for suppression systems at a savings. “I’ve had people come out of the woodwork, offering to sell suppression systems for cheaper than we priced them, and to help install it,” Robert Hyott said.
And the couple was visited by Delta Village Administrator Brad Peebles, offering the village’s support.
When Tripp visited the bakery on Aug. 25, two days after the Hyotts’ online notice appeared, “I was flabbergasted. The whole dining room area was filled with people. The community was awesome.”
Hyott said village residents have made it clear they don’t want to lose the bakery. “People have really pulled together to try to keep this thing going. We are absolutely amazed and beyond grateful at the response we’re receiving. We feel blessed. How many business owners would have this kind of response?”
While their continued success is not guaranteed, the support the Hyotts have received have made them determined to forge ahead.
“It’s been quite the adventure,” Robert Hyott said. “But instead of giving up we decided to push through. It’s been day to day, week to week, trying to keep it open. The word of mouth has traveled a long, long way, so we know we have something special, bottom line. So we’re not going to quit.”
He added, “A big thank you to all our supporters out there. We feel blessed to have each and every one of you.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.