By Alana Deany, River Bluff HS (Lexington, South Carolina)
Customers rave about Ally & Eloise Bakeshop in Columbia. Since opening its doors to the community five years ago, the bakery continues to be a favorite among locals. Today, it has become hugely popular among travelers too.
Aptly named after its owner Ally Selig, and her dog, Eloise, the shop specializes in sweet, scrumptious goodness like gourmet cookies, signature layer cakes and her specialties–-macaroons, baby cakes and cake pops. Ally’s recipe for success is a mixture of passion for baking and creating delectable desserts, a love for serving her customers, and sheer business know-how.
Ally had real-world experiences before starting her business. Soon after graduating from Sewanee University, she found her true passion in the culinary arts. Ally came from a family with a strong love for food–-her grandparents owned a restaurant and her mom owned a bakery–-so it was no surprise that she too would follow the family tradition. However, before attending a culinary art school, she immersed herself in hands-on experiences.
“I worked for a catering company, then a restaurant, and then I went to culinary school,” Ally said.
Ally studied in New York at the Culinary Institute of Education.
“It was great. I think everybody who wants to go to culinary school should go. It was really fun. I learned a lot,” Ally said. “I did the culinary program, so it was a year-long program where you learn the basic techniques of cooking, and then a small portion of pastry.”
In addition, Ally gained an in-depth understanding of business by taking management classes where she learned how to write a bakery business plan and how to manage finances. Ally explained the program provided skills necessary for a business owner.
“So, it gives you a basic outline of the importance of what you need to start a business; how to go about it, what you need, and things like that. That was helpful,” Ally stated.
While studying in the big apple, Ally was given the opportunity to intern for Amy’s Bread, a popular bakery in the city.
“When I went to culinary school, you had to get an internship to graduate. I interned there for six months, and then I got a job there. It was literally baking there every day, all day, every day,” Ally said. “Scooping cookies, making dough, making bars, all we did was bake.”
Today, Ally continues to bake all day every day, but in her own bakery. The various sweet treats in the display window showcase her creations.
“In baking, you have to be pretty precise. Like cooking is different. I feel like there is more boundaries in baking than cooking. So, you have to pay attention, focus, work a lot of hours, and you just have to love it,” Ally said.
All the bakers at Ally & Eloise Bakeshop share the core principles of hard work, attention to detail, and a love for their job. One of the bakery’s cake decorators, Debbie Truett, who wanted a job that would advance her skills in the culinary arts, understands the importance of doing what you love.
“The main goal in life is to do what you love, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m learning so much. Watching Ally, especially with all her background. She teaches a lot of stuff. She’s amazing,” Debbie stated.
Another baker, Carolina Levire has worked at the bakery for five years and has not only learned how to bake, but loves what she does.
“It’s a wonderful job. It’s a lot of fun,” expressed Carolina.
Bakeries like Ally & Eloise Bakeshop provide insight into the charming businesses that make Columbia, Columbia. Above all, it is a place where business owners can do what they love. Ally said it best when she pointed out, “I love to bake and I love people. So, it works out well because I get to do both. I get to meet people and form relationships with them.”