After much anticipation in the community, a new business, The Fam Lee Bakery, opened today in downtown Marion.
The bakery was originally advertised to open Tuesday but Jeff Lee, president of the LLC, said the one-day delay was a matter of necessity.
“We’ve been getting calls all the time from people wondering when we are going to open,” Lee said Monday. “We could have got it done but it would’ve killed us. We had to push it back to allow a little extra time to get set up.”
Lee’s daughters Jenny Lee and Catie Zurcher, will operate the bakery.
“It’s kind of been chaos around here,” Jenny said. “We wanted to be open for Old Settlers’ Day, but I hope people realize it’s going to be more of a soft opening this week.”
The sisters performed a test run of equipment Tuesday while preparing food items.
Some menu items, like a big batch of monster chocolate chip cookies, have closely guarded secret ingredients only shared among family members.
“I’ll probably take the recipe to my grave,” Jenny said.
Between other jobs, personal life, and politely persistent phone calls from potential customers wondering when their business would open, Lee said his family worked at a breakneck pace to finish renovations since they took ownership in July.
“There have been a lot of late nights spent here,” Lee said.
Wall panels were removed to expose the original limestone walls. The rock was sealed. Corrugated tin adds a rustic feel to the dining area.
New plumbing and electrical were added to meet the bakery’s needs, as were a bathroom, ceiling, lighting and fans. A playroom for the family’s children was also incorporated into the design behind the kitchen.
“We’ve put a lot of time and work into this place and we’ve had a lot of much appreciated help from community and church members,” Lee said. “Many of them helped us clean, and some helped us when we were in ‘destruct mode’ during demolition.”
Lee also expressed gratitude to PrarieLand Partners for the use of their loading dock, which the Lees used to unload the industrial kitchen equipment before they transported it to their bakery.
Zurcher said some community members also donated a set of longhorn antlers and some western art to the Lee’s plan to display at thier businesses.
“It was really nice of them,” Zurcher said. “It’s going to look good on the walls.”
New tables and chairs were delivered and set up recently.
Lee’s oldest daughter, Amanda Murray, visited last week to help by painting the signage on the front of the store. She also helped designed the company coasters and logo, Lee said.
As to the floor, Lee said new tile was added in the entryway, but the majority of it is red oak hardwood. He said some of the imperfections in the wood were kept to help add character.
“I sanded it for three days,” Lee said with a 1,000-yard stare.
Much of the meat and cheese was delivered Monday. The bakery will also have free Wifi for customers, he said.
“I’m pretty demanding,” Jenny said. “I really excited. Everything turned out exactly how I wanted.”
“I’m looking forward to the cherry rolls they make,” Lee said. “They render the sauce way down. It’s so moist and good.”
In the most recent weeks of preparation, collectively the Lee family has likely put in several hundred hours of work on the business, if not more.
“We’re in a rush and we’re all a bit punchy and tired,” Lee said. “I hope people understand that not everything will be entirely ready.”
In the future, he said, customers can expect to see a fountain drink dispenser and Starbucks cappuccino machine, and hear a variety of music over a sound system they plan to install.
“Farmers and ranchers don’t go for those fufu drinks like the caramel lattes the 20- to 30-somethings do. That’s why we’ve got the normal coffee machines too,” Lee said. “It is our bread and butter.”
The Lee’s hop their bakery has a “metropolitan feel” minus the big city.
We hope it’s a place where people can visit in a casual atmosphere, a place people frequent and stay a while, maybe even a public office type setting where businessmen can have meetings,” Lee said. “We’re excited. It’s hard to really put into words.”