Editor's Note: This is a series of posts in which Visit Hendricks County is partnering with the Hendricks County ICON and Business Leader by re-publishing stories that first appeared in their publications. These stories will highlight some of our local faces of tourism as part of our All In, Hendricks County content to highlight the good stuff happening in our community.
Bread Basket Cafe & Bakery is now offering carry-out , delivery, limited dine-in and outdoor dining options. You can find out more about what every local restaurant in Hendricks County is doing by clicking here.
(Original article published June 2013 in the Hendricks County Business Leader by Gus Pearcy)
The rhubarb is ripe and Judy Sexton imagines the possibilities.
“We’ve got our first strawberry-rhubarb pie in the case now and we’ll be making straight rhubarb, rhubarb custard and I do my own twist, I call it blu-barb,” Sexton said.
It is indicative of Sexton’s approach to her restaurant called the Bread Basket Cafe and Bakery. Housed in a converted home on South Tennessee Street, the Bread Basket serves fresh as much as possible.
Sexton prides herself on freshness and unique delectability. She serves up some of the fanciest cinnamon rolls around, and she has a case full of desserts that stares you down as soon as you open the front door.
The ambiance is quaint and comfortable inside this renovated home. In addition to the good-looking pies and cakes, there are the sandwiches, breakfast omelets and French toast made from the aforementioned cinnamon rolls. Then there is the homemade bread, of course.
“Our signature bread is our Honey Oat,” Sexton said. “The Wheatnut is one we’ve added to our menu. Those two are ones I always try to have. Then we do a Savory Bacon Bread and Italian Parmesan. We’ve got a lot of different breads that we bring in.”
Just Like Home
Past the Case of Decadence (dessert case) is a beautiful remodel on the house. There are lamps and a fireplace. It’s as much like a home as possible.
Judy buys local products as much as she can. She buys her coffee from a Greencastle roaster and recently struck a deal to get her teas from a local distributor. Her fruits and vegetables are always fresh and local when possible.
When you meet Judy, you know how grateful she is for every customer she has. She works very hard to bring the best food to her customers. She wants the experience to be comfortable and very tasty.
This is what the Bread Basket is when it comes to a brand. For Sexton, it also is a calling.
Bread Basket History
The Bread Basket is a transplant endeavor from Coatesville, Ind., where it managed to build up a faithful customer base for more then six years. Two years ago, Sexton and her daughters, JinAyla Bollman and Ivy Willard, brought the business to Danville ready for the next chapter of success.
In 2005, Sexton was winding down her days as a stay-at-home mom. Her husband, Jim, was winding down his days with the Chrysler Foundry, and a son headed off to Iraq. The confluence of events left her restless.
She had plenty of experience working at Jack’s restaurant, her father’s, in Cicero. She thought it would be a small baking operation, but the Lord had other plans.
“I thought it would be something small within our church, you know,” she said when we spoke to her in 2007. “Then, this was revealed to me, and I just prayed and asked Him, 'If it’s you then open the door and don’t let any man shut it.'”
The Bread Basket is fashioned after John 6:51, a Bible verse where Jesus likens himself to the Bread of Life. It’s a powerful metaphor for the Coatesville resident and her entire family who all pitch in to help around the restaurant.
People from all over Indiana would travel to eat in Coatesville based on a reputation. That would have been fine, but there was an opportunity to grow and bring her daughter Jinayla into the business after she graduated from college.
“Coatesville was a wonderful incubator for us,” Sexton said. “It was a good place to start up and figure things out. If I tried to do this off the bat, I would’ve fell on my face.”
The Coatesville space was only a few seats smaller than the Danville cafe. The real difference is in the back where there is more room for storage and extra kitchen space, which accommodates all the baking done throughout the week.
The Move to Danville
At the Greater Danville Chamber of Commerce Farmer’s Market, Sexton sold plenty of cinnamon rolls and home-baked breads. After her first Farmers Market season, Sexton and her daughter JinAyla began looking for a small space to open a carryout bakery in Danville.
That significantly increased the baking strain on the Coatesville kitchen; so almost immediately, the Sexton’s began looking for a spot in Danville.
“We had such a demand for people wanting food,” Sexton said. “They’d come and be disappointed there wasn’t a full blown cafe up there. We were there for two years while we were looking for a permanent place.”
Danville icon Lee Comer wanted to help Judy and JinAyla and fill a space he owned on Tennessee Street that previously was an engineering firm. It sat empty and needed some major renovations, which Comer took care of.
Only open for breakfast and lunch, Sexton says she is just too exhausted to stay open for dinner. The Bread Basket also is limited in her catering abilities. Sexton enjoys packing sandwiches but doesn’t have the equipment to do hot dinners offsite. That may change, but for now, the girls are very happy with the business.
Carry out is also a large portion of the success formula, but the bread and butter is dine-in traffic. JinAyla would like to see the breakfast business grow during the week.
Mondays are reserved all day for baking. Baking goes on when most people are eating dinner or sleeping.
A Family Affair
JinAyla, the only other full-time employee and the cake baker, says for now there are no plans for expansions, just getting better at the basics.
“When we do everything ourselves, it is hard to be efficient,” she said. “And consistency is something we want to be keeping up with too. We have so many wonderful hands in the process that it does present a challenge because we have to keep our eyes on things.”
In addition to Jim’s regular help, the whole operation is a family affair. JinAyla’s husband, Jason, helps set up banquets. Judy and Jim’s two boys, Dustin Hicks and Greg Sexton, also pitch in.
All of the work has paid off. This month, the Bread Basket celebrates eight years.
“When you taste my food,” Sexton said. “I want you to go, ‘Wow!”
How Did Judy Do It?
What’s the best advise you ever received: Do something you love. We work hard, and some days are much longer than others, but to be able to work with my family and do something that brings us lots of joy is such a rarity. I truly love my job.
Best business decision you ever made: Moving the entire operation under one roof in Danville was the best thing that has happened to us yet. We love being a part of this vibrant community and it’s so encouraging to be surrounded by so many other small business owners who are passionate about serving Hendricks County.
Worst advise you ever received: Don’t do it. When I was checking out the feasibility of opening the cafe in 2004, I asked for advice from many different sources. Most of the feedback was positive, but there were some who said not to take the risk. Though I understand why they might have discouraged it, I can’t imagine if I wouldn’t have taken that leap of faith!
In five years, I want….to continue serving the community and be even better at what we do.
My secret to success: Staying faithful and knowing this place and God’s plan for it is bigger than me.