Amy Felker didn't choose to open a bakery and coffee shop – the people of Lewes made the choice for her.
“We talked to everyone we could on the street,” she said. “Everyone said the one thing the town really needed was a bakery.”
It is many of those same people who have supported Felker over the years and allowed the Lewes Bake Shoppe and Notting Hill Coffee Roastery to enjoy 25 successful years in downtown Lewes.
“The town has been incredibly supportive,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “People don't realize that when you come in every day and just order a cup of coffee what that does for a small business. It's really miraculous. I've been really lucky and grateful.”
The bakery came first. With very little baking experience, Felker tapped the nearby Amish/Mennonite community. As she bought baked goods from the community, she was learning how to make it as well. It enabled her to eventually bake everything in house.
About a year after opening, Felker added the coffee house element to the business. While at a food show, she and her former partner discovered coffee roasting equipment. They thought it seemed easy enough and enrolled in a two-day certification class.
“Then we got a cheap bag of beans and burnt the heck out of them,” she said.
She's improved quite a bit since the early days, and now offers about 125 different types of coffee in the shop or online. She has so many flavors, she cannot carry all in stock at the store. While most people are sleeping, she's more than likely in the shop roasting beans, a task that often takes her until 4 a.m. to complete.
“For a lot of people this is just an adult candy store,” she said. “When I get bored, I add another coffee varietal from a different country or I add a flavor to the wall.”
To be successful at what she does, she said, she needs to know what is going on in the world of coffee beans. Like grapes for wine, she said, coffee beans from different climates and regions of the world dictate the taste. So in order to offer the best coffee, she monitors the weather and, sometimes, politics of the areas from which she buys beans.
What many customers are surprised to learn is that Felker also offers is a selection of homemade soups, sandwiches and salads, even though she's offered them since Day 1 of the business. She also tries to adjust to the times as people's tastes change with current trends. For noncoffee drinkers, she has developed a product called Vanilla Dream, a fat-free, noncoffee powder mix that can be added to hot water or used as creamer for those who do drink coffee.
Part of what has made Felker's business successful for a quarter of a century is the people she surrounds herself with. She said a lot can be learned if you check your ego at the door.
“Whether they're younger or older, everyone brings something to the table,” she said. “I still to this day ask a lot of questions. I learn something everyday.”
She has a team of five bakers, including herself, who work tirelessly to offer something people want. She encourages them to think outside the box and offer criticism if they think they can make something better or add something they might be missing.
The atmosphere in which she works is what brings her back everyday and why, she said, she'll be doing it until she's 100 years old.
“If you're going to work your butt off you better like it,” she said. “At the end of the day, I really, really like it. I wouldn't want to do anything else.”
The Lewes Bake Shoppe and Notting Hill Coffee Roastery, 124 Second St., is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but often stays open later during the tourist season. The entire catalog of coffee offerings can be found at www.nottinghillcoffee.com. For more information, call 302-645-0733.