Bake Me Happy shortened its hours and took a two-week break in mid-April to regroup and figure out what the new normal will be.

When Gov. Mike DeWine shut down all but carryout at Ohio restaurants March 15, the owners of Bake Me Happy issued a social-media plea to friends of the gluten-free bakery in Merion Village.

“We are responsible for lots of people,” Wendy Miller Pugh and her wife, Letha Pugh, wrote on Facebook. “We have been good stewards of our funds, but they won’t last forever without community support. We need your help.”

Customers responded by buying gift cards that kept revenue coming in. The business began taking online orders and offering bake-at-home cookies, cookie-decorating kits and frozen family-sized meals.

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Business was up, they say, even though wholesale orders from Ohio State and Denison universities stopped when the state shuttered schools in early March. Anxiety was on the rise, too, for the owners and their 12 employees.

“Our big conversation was, are we doing the right thing?” says Wendy Miller Pugh. “Are we keeping everyone safe? We want to keep going, but if somebody gets sick, then what?”

At the bakery, the Pughs reassured employees things were going well, even as they closed two hours earlier each day. Bake Me Happy allowed just four customers inside at a time and stopped the sale of espresso drinks that required people to wait.

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“I could still feel the anxiety in the air,” Letha Pugh says. The two decided in mid-April to close down for a two-week break. Everyone got paid based on their average hours over the previous month.

“When we all left there on Saturday [April 11], it was like a load… I feel lighter already,” Wendy Miller Pugh says. “It was like the last day of school before spring break. People were skipping out of there. That makes you feel like, OK, we did the right thing.”

Letha Pugh wonders shorter hours might be the new normal. The couple already marvel about how quickly they were able to change procedures and products. “I’m not real comfortable with just reopening, but I also understand the need to start the process of reopening,” she says, Bake Me Happy might have more of these periodic two-week breaks. 

“If this is the new normal, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Bob Vitale is a freelance writer. 

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