For Lynn Bright, baking is a labor of love.

Bright, who has been home baking for 50 years, opened Old Mill Bakery in downtown Hurricane earlier this year. At 62, she's going strong.

"I needed to do something for myself," Bright said. "My degree is in parks and recreation, and it's a great occupation, but I've done all of those things. This is my retirement, and I'm working 12 hours a day, seven days a week."

Bright learned early on how to be resourceful in a household of five children. She helped her mother tend to cows, fetch eggs from the chickens, raise a garden and make their own cottage cheese at their home in Witcher, West Virginia, just below Belle.

"Our milk cow, Chrissy, was a Jersey cow, so she gave us lots of cream," Bright said. "We'd make lots of cobblers and use the blueberries we picked. It was not a bad life."

Bright said her love for baking runs in her family.

"My mother was a wonderful cook, and my grandmother was a line cook at a lumberjack camp - the woman could cook," Bright said. "Mind you, she carried her own water from the spring. She didn't have running water in the house."

Each Sunday, her grandmother would host her 10 children, their children and their children at her home for dinner. Due to the small size of the dinner table, Bright said, the men ate first, then the children and then the women.

"I watched my mom and my dad, who was also a wonderful cook who made spice cake, and I just kept it up," Bright said. "That was my gift to people. Homemade goodies."

The bakery's namesake was inspired by the area's old grist mill that was torn down around the 1970s, she said.

"Originally, I was going to put it where the old mill used to stand," Bright said. "It belongs to my sweetheart's great-grandfather, C. W. Taylor."

Bright said her significant other, Pat Kinder, has been more than supportive throughout this business endeavor. For Valentine's Day, he gifted her a 20-quart mixer for her bakery's kitchen.

"He's my cheerleader, and he's a good one," Bright said of Kinder. "He has really helped me. He says I work too hard, so he was excited when I hired another person [at the bakery]."

For Bright, every day at Old Mill Bakery is an adventure, and for that, she's grateful. Just this week, she made pita bread from scratch for the first time.

"I rolled it out like a tortilla, and then pop it in the oven, and it started to balloon up like little pillows," she said. "Nothing in the middle but air. It was amazing - there I am eating a bread that people have been making for thousands of years on the other side of the world. It's pretty cool."

As a diabetic, Bright is cognizant of what she bakes.

"So what do I do? I open a bakery," Bright said. "I pick and choose. If I want to sit down and have something, I make adjustments."

In an effort to attract new visitors, Bright has incorporated afternoon tea time on Tuesdays at 3:30, where selections of teas and light sandwiches and pastries are served on ornate platters. On Wednesdays, she serves pepperoni rolls and on Saturdays, cinnamon rolls.

"I've got all this space," Bright said. "It's nice, and I want to see more people sit and enjoy it."

Old Mill Bakery is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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