It’s a warm summer afternoon. The sun is bright and the world is green. The sounds of bugs buzzing and kids playing permeate the air.
Inside, parents whip up sandwiches and snacks until exhaustion, hunger or the smell of baked goods lures the children back inside.
The kids carelessly let the screen smack behind them as they run in.
“I really wanted a screen door to be part of it because that slap of the screen door, it’s a sense memory,” Dina Hall, co-owner of the Back Door Bakeshop, said.
Hall and her partner and co-owner, Gail Lehman, sought to recreate the sense of comfort and care of homemade food with their eatery.
Their path to the Back Door Bakeshop began 17 years ago when Lehman and Hall first met. At the time, Lehman was a stay-at-home mom of two kids and Hall was a musician and freelance graphic designer for PPL Electric Utilities.
Both women were going through divorces and found each other through mutual friends. They got married in 2015.
“As we came together, we realized this is what we wanted to do, and we were meant to spend the rest of our lives together,” Hall said.
The Back Door Bakeshop got its start when a friend asked Lehman to bake cookies for their business as gifts for their clients. Hall said Lehman took several orders for the business, and people loved the cookies.
Following that success, Lehman began to bake for private orders and sold her baked goods at the Confetti Cafe on Main Street.
In 2008, the Back Door Bakeshop officially came into existence. Lehman bought a small property in Bethlehem to start their wholesale bakery. There, they would take private orders and sell their baked goods at local businesses and events, like the Bethlehem Farmer’s Market at Farrington Square.
Then in 2013, Lehman and Hall found the retail location they were looking for.
Located on the corner of East Broad and Center streets, the property fit all of Lehman and Hall’s qualifications. It was located close to downtown but not on Main Street, so they would have plenty of space for parking, which they needed for transporting wholesale orders.
Lehman and Hall didn’t want to rely on tourism for their sales and instead focused on serving the people who live in the community. The property has plenty of space and a window in the kitchen for Lehman, so she could feel connected to the outside world when she bakes.
A notable aspect of the location is that, besides a few courtesy chairs outside the shop, there’s no seating. Hall said the space would not lend itself to indoor seating and they didn’t want to change their grab-and-go business model. The shop was formerly an ice cream parlor and has two walk up windows, which work perfectly with Lehman and Hall’s business plan.
With a permanent retail location, Lehman started creating a menu. She said she comes up with the selection organically, using a mix of family recipes, customer suggestions and her own creativity.
“It’s my way of being creative and trying new things in a business where you really could get stuck doing the same thing every day,” Lehman said, “and lucky for me, the customers love it.”
With the new storefront, Lehman was also able to start a lunch menu that rotates weekly. Hall said overall they try to make their food have a fresh and homemade taste that evokes nostalgia for the type of family food Lehman and Hall had when they were kids.
A typical day at the bakery starts at 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., Lehman is in the kitchen baking. With the exception of a brief break to make sandwiches for the lunch crowd from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Lehman bakes all day until the shop closes at 3 p.m.
Hall stays in the front of the shop to man the impeccably tidy counter.
Everything in Hall’s work space is organized. Dark roast is on the left. Medium roast is on the right. The tongs are on the front counter by the baked goods.
“Everything is in its place, whether it be here or in the kitchen,” Hall said.
Spending all day, every day together can be hard on a married couple, but Lehman and Hall have found ways to make it work. Lehman said they talk openly about their problems to prevent resentment and plan business meetings to keep business separate from their personal lives.
“The love and care that Gail (Lehman) and Dina (Hall) have for what they do and the fact that they do it together comes through in every aspect of the bakeshop,” Kiera Wilhelm, a friend of the couple who occasionally works in the shop, said.
Outside of their relationship, Lehman and Hall have a strong bond with the community and try to give back through their business.
In the summer of 2015, Hall was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since the business is solely run by Lehman and Hall, Hall continued to work at the shop, where they saw a outpouring of support from the community.
“We had friends who were coming in and just doing dishes for hours, just to help us, and then they would help us clean up,” Lehman said.
Wilhelm said just by walking into the Back Door Bakeshop, customers can get a sense that the shop is close to the community and a part of who Lehman and Hall are.
“The way that they talk to you when you run into them on the street or at Wegmans or having a drink with them,” Wilhelm said, “it’s very true and genuine and they couldn’t operate the business any other way.”