Owners Randy and Janet Shank began their confectionery course roadside, selling Randy’s vegetables and produce. They then started baking out of their home for the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. Here, their breads and confections earned them a solid customer base.
As popularity for their baked goods rose, however, the husband and wife duo found that working out-of-home limited their ability to grow. When Shank’s Bakery opened in July 2005, their following from the Farmers Market turned into loyal regulars.
Now in its seventh year at 49 West Water Street in downtown Harrisonburg, the cozy, naturally lit shop offers fresh breads, pastries, cakes, cupcakes, pies, cookies, soup, tea, and fair trade coffee from Lexington, Virginia — all at affordable prices.
“We try to keep the prices as low as possible across the board. We don’t want to be just a business for the people who can afford the best. We want to be a community bakery that’s available and affordable for everyone,” said Randy, a farmer since graduating from Eastern Mennonite University.
Their treats aren’t just affordable — they’re all made in-house from scratch by Randy, Janet, and six employees. That means no half-baked or frozen products. “I even make my Danish dough and my croissant dough for the ham and cheese croissants. I make it all from scratch,” Janet said. Randy is in charge of making the yeast breads and Janet makes the sourdough loaves.
Janet, who grew up in Uruguay, South America, where her parents were Mennonite missionaries, is also a full-time registered nurse at Oak Lea Nursing Home. Even with farming and nursing obligations, the couple —married for 41 years — is at the bakery every day.
Randy, who also dapples in photography and pottery, begins at 7 a.m. and ends around 8 p.m. Three nights a week, Janet works through most of the night making sourdough bread.
As successful business owners, Randy and Janet have learned that consistency is key. “Everybody wants it to be the same today as it was last week,” Janet said. However, this doesn’t keep the pair from concocting recipes for new confections to fill the two large, glass displays at the front of their shop.
Besides the crowd favorites —cannoli, cinnamon buns, and sugar cookies — Randy and Janet feature seasonal specialties, like the “Boston Cream Dream” (a white cake filled with Boston cream filling and chocolate ganache) and a spice cake filled with caramel and topped with sugared nuts and caramel sauce.
A bustling bakery full of folks on their way to work, kids stopping in for a treat after dance class, or friends catching up over coffee, Shank’s Bakery is sure to leave sweet teeth — and wallets —satisfied.
Laura Weeks is a special columnist and event photographer for HDR for Spring 2012. She is a junior Journalism major at James Madison University.