When Duane and Juanita Daugherty bought H&R Bakery in 2000, they acquired a Salem landmark. Now, they’re adding their own bit of history by moving the bakery to town square.
Duane said he always wanted to run his own business — his mother and grandmother were bakers for a living for a combined total of about 60 years. Funnily enough, baking was not Duane’s specialty. “Peanut butter and jelly, I can do.”
Juanita was the one who threw the idea out as they often stopped by the bakery before going to work. She asked Duane if he’d ever be interested in it if it ever went up for sale. Not more than a year later, the question became relevant.
“We were looking for a business and wanted to work for ourselves and have that challenge,” Juanita said.
Duane said the bakery didn’t start out with much in terms of equipment, and the building wasn’t in the best shape.
“Really what we bought was the name and the recipes, to be perfectly honest about it,” Duane said. “There were nights that we would sleep in front of the oven; we wouldn’t make it home.”
Duane and Juanita have been married for 24 years. “It was a blind date and I tried to back out. My boss had set it up and he said, ‘I’ll kill you if you back out,’ so I said, ‘OK, I’ll go,’ ” Duane said. “We went to Burger King,” Juanita said.
Their dynamic makes them great business partners. “You’ll find he’s our talker. I sit quietly back and do all the work,” Juanita said, laughing.
“Juanita is the brains of the operation,” Duane said. “Without her, it would not fly. We’re really a team; even though I have the bigger mouth, we’re a team. We’re hard on each other when someone has an idea and we’ll bat it back and forth until the tennis ball is about beat to death.”
“ ’Til it concedes that I’m right,” Juanita interjected. “That’s usually what happens, that’s true,” Duane said, laughing. “We’re brutally honest with each other and we have to be before we put something out there.”
They’ve been especially thoughtful with every decision they’ve made related to the bakery’s move to the square. One of the things they love about the new space is that it’s just around the corner from their current location.
One thing they didn’t anticipate was the challenge of self-employment, including paying for insurance and finding good employees. “We’re very fortunate we’ve got a good crew now,” Duane said. He added that it’s hard to keep staff with the quick turnaround of today’s society. “Knock on wood, I’ve got some really good people and we couldn’t do it without them.”
Juanita said they had 15 full-time employees at their Walnut Street location, and when fully staffed, they plan to double that number at their new location. Their new location was a department store and then a fabric shop for several years. “When they vacated it, we knew this property had been built very structurally sound,” Duane said. “That’s perfect for us because the machinery we’re bringing in weighs up to 1,200 pounds apiece.”
The Daughertys also happen to have a love and appreciation for older buildings. “The biggest thing is we did a lot of the work ourselves,” Duane said. “We gutted the building, we had 17 dump truck loads of the stuff that went out of here and we did all the framing, hung all the drywall and then we started bringing in contractors to put the finishing touches on.”
Doing a lot of it yourself may make the project last longer, but Duane said it adds to the satisfaction. “There’s limited space (at the Walnut Street location); here, we’ll be able to do everything simultaneously,” Juanita said.
The unique stamp the Daughertys are putting on the bakery involves model trains — a lot of them — displayed on shelves covering an entire wall of the new space. “I grew up in New Albany and the trains of course come right through town, right down 15th Street, and that was my old neighborhood, so I would start watching trains as a young child and I just continued to have that interest,” Duane said.
He had his first train set at birth because his dad saved one for him from his childhood. He said the hobby kept him focused throughout his life. Growing up in a poor family, it gave Duane the goal to one day be able to have the trains he didn’t have, and that inspired his work ethic. “I remember one of the first train cars I got, it was like $4.50 and I made a quarter a week in allowance, so you can calculate how many weeks it took to save up to buy this little car,” Duane said. “But I still have it and it’s one of the cars that means the most to me.”
The H&R Bakery has been in Salem since 1946 and has always been a big part of the town. Duane and Juanita look at it as not only a big commitment, but also as something they can weave into their own legacy as well.
“We’re the owners, but really we’re the caretakers,” Duane said. “We’re all only on this Earth for a certain amount of time — we all move on, and you want to leave something behind that’s positive. •
For more information, check out the webstie at hrbakery.food73.com
Story by Darian Eswine // Photos by Michelle Hockman