story by Angie Kay Dilmore, photos by Shonda Manuel
Rebekah Hoffpauir was born into a family of successful entrepreneurs – her father owns a construction company, her mother owns Hoffpauir Properties, and her older brother has a design business with his partner. In 2015, Rebekah graduated with a degree in Business Management from McNeese State University. Though baking was always a passion for Rebekah, she never considered it a career option until high school, when she realized she could do anything she put her mind to.
Rebekah’s love of baking grew out of a series of experiences – her parents gave her an Easy-Bake Oven when she was five years old. She baked cookies using pre-made dough as soon as she was old enough to use an oven. As a teen, she’d stay up late at night watching The Food Network. When her family vacationed in Europe, she fell in love with little coffee shops, bakeries, breads, and the slower pace of life. Rebekah says her father and grandmother are amazing cooks and she learned from them the importance of gathering around good food in our Southwest Louisiana culture. In 2016, she opened the Bekery, which has become a cherished Lake Area eatery. Thrive magazine recently chatted with Rebekah, where she talked about the challenges and rewards of opening a bakery.
Describe your childhood growing up in downtown Lake Charles.
My parents, Kathryn & Drew Hoffpauir, taught me the value of hard work and organization but also provided a fun and loving home. They didn’t have a lot of free time but always made sure we took at least one great vacation a year. I have two brothers, Drew and Hayden. Drew was my voice when I was too shy to speak. Hayden came along when I was eight years old and he was a real-life doll to me. We are all very close and do everything together. We make a perfect team – everyone has different skills and talents – and strive to make Lake Charles a better place.
What prompted you to open a bakery?
I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. It takes a LOT of time, money, and support to open a business. A lot of time. I just wouldn’t take no for an answer. When my parents still didn’t fully support the idea after college, I spent some time in Verona, Italy as an au pair. After I returned, I was so inspired by the small Italian bakeries, I was more focused than ever.
How has the Bekery evolved over the past five years?
It has certainly evolved from concept to where it is today. My parents had just remodeled their kitchen so I took full advantage of the appliances making and selling King Cakes from home in the spring of 2016. That may have been the catalyst to their agreeing to help me get a real bakery open. My dad carved out a small area in his warehouse for a kitchen. Then we decided I would need a small waiting area. And a customer restroom. And maybe a patio. With a firepit. Within the first year I had outgrown the space. We shut down for a much-needed vacation and when I returned, it was done and we re-opened in the space you see now. Initially, I offered cookies, quiches, cinnamon rolls and a “cake of the day.” I offered coffee from a Keurig machine. It was just me at first. Later, I hired my cousin to help with prep and cleaning. Then I hired front-of-the house help because it was too hard for me to bake and take care of the customers myself. I remember my first $1000 day and not being able to go to an event with my family that evening because my feet and ankles were so swollen. I now have four full-time and several part-time employees and I could not do it without them. They have become like family to me.
When still planning the Bekery, I knew I wanted to offer breads, though I wasn’t certain how to bake them. I had no idea what a quiche was. I didn’t know how to make croissants. But I didn’t let that stop me. Soon after I opened the Bekery, I was on a waiting list for a professional baking course at the King Arthur Flour headquarters in Vermont. They’d had a cancellation and I got a call asking if I’d like the spot. I had to be in Vermont in two days. 20 minutes later, I had a flight booked. That is where I learned to bake quiche and the proper method to make croissants. Now those items are two of my biggest sellers.
What do you love about owning a bakery?
I don’t have a set menu. It changes regularly because I love the creativity and input of other chefs, or if I find something that inspires me. It never gets boring or stagnant – it’s always something new and different, always learning. I love food, the way it brings people together, and watching them enjoy it.
What has surprised and challenged you?
I wasn’t expecting it to grow this big. And I didn’t anticipate the hours I put in. But I was most surprised by how hard it is to manage people – employees, customers, vendors. I would be perfectly happy creating in the kitchen but being an actual business owner requires so much more of my time and energy than I realized.
Describe how the events of 2020 affected your business.
When COVID restrictions were first implemented, we tried to do carry-out only for a while. I was going in the red every day, so we made the tough decision to close completely for about a month. Business was slow when we re-opened and we were just hitting our stride when Hurricane Laura struck. Our building was hit pretty hard, but we were much more fortunate than others. We re-opened again on October 21 – our four-year anniversary – and we’ve been busier than ever.
What are your goals for the Bekery?
Big things are in store for the Bekery’s future. A new location is coming soon but it will have the same coziness and charm. You may even see mimosas on the menu! I would love to see “the Bekery” items in grocery stores someday but that’s a whole other animal.
How do you spend your spare time?
I honestly don’t have a lot of spare time. This bakery is my work and my hobby. Maintaining relationships with friends and family is challenging with the long, strange hours I keep. If I could do more, I’d travel. I hope someday I can shut down completely for a few weeks a year and travel. Paris is top on my list!
Name some things most people don’t know about you.
I’m a true introvert. I know it’s important but making eye contact and chatting wears me out. I don’t talk a lot, but when I get comfortable, I’m told I have a wicked sense of humor. I’ve even been known to sing karaoke in front of a large crowd! I’ve lived in Louisiana my whole life, but I cannot eat spicy food – my dad says I have a Yankee palette. And I’m obsessed with my cool, crazy Bengal cat named Roman.