Bakery opens its doors in Hillsboro

It took longer than planned, but the locally anticipated Norel Farms Bakery opened its doors Monday at 209 N. Main in Hills­boro.

For co-owner and manager Rachel Schmidt, the accomplishment brings to fulfillment a longtime professional ambition as well as completes a full circle to her childhood experience.

“Rachel grew up in a family where her mother had a bakery and a doughnut shop basically right next to her house in Meade,” said husband and business partner Norman, who teaches chemistry at Tabor College.

The Schmidts find themselves in an identical situation now.

“It’s like going back home in Meade because it has the house and the business right next to each other,” Rachel said. “That’s the way I grew up. It’s like it’s home.”

Journey to Hillsboro

The couple met while attending Tabor College and were married in 1986, a year after Rachel graduated. After graduate school, Norman took a teaching position at Georgia Southern University in States­boro while Rachel home-schooled their children until they were ready for high school.

“While he was busy teaching at the university and our kids were all off doing their growing-up things, I would be baking all week long to get ready for the farmers market,” said Rachel, who learned the art while helping her mother.

“I would completely fill up the mini van with baked goods, take them all to the farmers market and sell everything. The people there were expecting me to open a bakery out there.”

In fact, the couple were pursuing that option, and had even spotted a potential location when they found out that Tabor had an opening in its chemistry department.

Even though it was late in the hiring season, the Schmidts accepted the position in part to be closer to extended family. Norman is a Wichita native.

“We spent time praying about it and said we’ll pursue it, and if God doesn’t want us to do it he’ll shut the door—which is kind of how we handle most situations in our life,” she said.

The Schmidts initially settled in Newton so their daughter could swim with the Newton High School team during her senior year and the couple could find a permanent location to live as well as start a bakery in Hills­boro.

After a few false leads, the Schmidts bought the house and outbuilding at their current location last November. By finals week the following month, handyman Norman had started renovating the former laundry and antique store.

“We were trying to see what we could do ourselves,” Rachel said.

The Schmidts soon realized they would need some help when they decided to replace the old concrete floor.

“It was so bad, I would tell people it was a floor built for rock climbers,” Rachel said.

After months of work, renovations were finally completed last week and the health inspector gave the facility a final seal of approval Monday.

“It’s been a long process,” Rachel said.

Bakery business

The Schmidts designed the interior themselves and received some technical assistance from helpful contractors. But they received a lot of unsolicited assistance when it came to the bakery business itself.

“It’s so funny, but almost everyone I’ve met has said what we really need to have in a bake shop is this…,” Rachel said. “But I pretty well knew what I wanted to do.

“I knew I wanted a coffee bar, I knew I wanted to sell Coke, I knew I wanted a freezer to put stuff in so people could buy fresh things out of the freezer instead of old day-old stuff.”

The Schmidts plan to open at 5:30 a.m. and, at least to start with, provide doughnuts, muffins and cinnamon rolls.

Rachel decided on the early start after working for a time at Golden Heritage Foods in Hills­boro.

“Everybody showed up there at 6 o’clock in the morning—and a lot of places open at 6,” she said. “They have to stay there and work for how long? There’s no place open for them to get breakfast before they go to work.

“That’s part of my service for Jesus, to have something ready for them on the way to work.”

Norel Farms Bakery will serve a revolving lunch menu that will feature sandwiches on Monday, a meat tart on Tuesday, pizza on Wednesday, bierrocks on Thursday and soup in a bread bowl on Friday.

Again inspired by her former job, Rachel said it is her goal to provide lunch within five minutes of a customer’s arrival.

“That’s another thing I learned from working at Golden Heritage,” she said. “They have half a hour (break), so they have to have their lunch in five minutes or they can’t come.”

The bakery will remain open until 2 p.m. during summer, then likely will expand its hours to 4 p.m. during the school year so students have an eating option when classes are over.

Evening and late-night openings are a possibility later on, depending on interest and profitability.

Fresh-baked goods

As for baked goods, each day of the week Norel Farms Bakery will feature a different kind of muffin, bread, cake and cookies.

One unique product Rachel is eager to introduce to the community is sprouted-wheat bread, which is made primarily from wheat grain that is allowed to germinate, then made into a paste for baking.

“The basis for this bread is that wheat is hard on your digestive system,” Rachel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a white wheat flour or a whole-wheat flour. You body looks at it all the same—as a fiber. It doesn’t do anything for you except go right on through, and hopefully take some stuff with it as it’s going out.”

She said allowing the grain to sprout actually changes its chemistry and makes it come alive.

“Just like vegetables are something that your body can absorb nutrients from, because they’re alive, when you sprout the wheat it becomes something your body can absorb nutrients from,” she said. “That alone makes sprouted-wheat bread much healthier for you than just a regular-wheat bread.”

To the paste, she will add a small amount of regular flour to obtain the right consistency and a little honey for sweetener, but the recipe does not include milk, eggs, fats or oils.

In addition to his myriad other interests, Norman raises bees. Their honey will be used for the bread.

“People with allergies would be attracted to this because when you have an allergy in the place that you’re living in, you need to have honey from the place that you’re living in order to help combat that allergy,” Rachel said.

In addition to bread, Rachel said she can use sprouted-wheat paste to make dough for pizza crust, cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls.

Another unique ingredient she likes to use in some of her baked goods is spelt flour, made from the primitive species of wheat.

“A lot of people believe—I don’t know if this has been proven—that spelt is easier on your digestive system than wheat is,” she said. “I have another sprouted-wheat bread that I can make with organic spelt flour, so that would be an even better thing.”

She said he hopes to add gluten-free products down the road.

Goals and flubs

Rachel said the primary goal of opening the bakery is to express her passion for baking and for her faith convictions.

“Let’s just say we feel very strongly that God has been directing us the whole way, and that my goal for this place has been to serve Jesus by loving the community and serving them,” she said.

At the same time, Rachel said she knows that every new business hits a few bumps along the way.

“I would like to ask that the public be patient with me,” she said. “I was hoping to have a week or two of dry runs before actually opening—and it’s not happening.

“I’m going to have some flubs. If people have a flub, I hope they don’t think it will always taste like that.”

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