North Texas Daily

Local bakery celebrates 13 years in Denton

Local bakery celebrates 13 years in Denton

Local bakery celebrates 13 years in Denton
September 10
23:39 2014

Matt Wood / Senior Staff Writer

Eric Helland’s day starts at 2:30. In the morning.

Long before the crack of dawn, he’s helping to prepare baked goods not just for today, but two days ahead of time. As a professional baker, he’s perfectly accustomed to the inverse working hours, especially when he’s working for himself.

“If you’re going to bake, you accept that part of the job,” he said with a laugh. “Once you get used to it, it’s just the same as waking up at 8 a.m.”

Helland, owner of Ravelin Bakery, has been operating the Denton institution for 13 years with his wife, Pamela. The bakery specializes in European-style baked goods such as croissants and danishes as well as fresh-baked, whole-loaf breads. The lauded establishment even has a 5.0 average rating on Yelp, the highest of any eating establishment in Denton.

This morning, the door of Ravelin has been swinging as students come in to get baked goods for the UNT vs SMU game. There’s barely a minute that goes by without someone approaching the counter to be greeted by a beaming smile from Pamela.

“Everyone’s bringing muffins to the game,” said Pamela Helland, laughing.

The Hellands’ distribution of labor is split, with Eric doing the majority of the baking and Pamela handling finances, although each one is known to dabble in the other’s work.

“She’s the brains behind the whole operation,” Eric said with a wide smile. “Without her, we wouldn’t exist.”

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A batch of breakfast croissants filled with cheese and ham.

Recipe For Success

The couple had wanted to open their own bakery for five or six years, and in 2001 they officially opened shop.

“I was a pastry chef, and I mainly worked in the hotel business,” Eric said. “As I progressed in my craft, I eventually knew I wanted to do my own thing.”

Denton complemented the idea of Ravelin Bakery perfectly, he said. The small-town feel of the area was reminiscent of a European-village atmosphere, which made it just the right fit for a European pastry-centered bakery.

“We were really attracted to the kind of community it was,” he said. “We knew this kind of place would support what we were doing. And 13 years later, I know we did the right thing.”

Eric said Denton is overwhelmingly supportive of local businesses, and that many customers voice their preference for local pastries to him. He said he makes sure that people feel at home when they enter the bakery, and he takes special effort to learn people’s names, get to know them and develop personal relationships that make the whole business more alive.

“We try to be a part of people’s lives while doing business,” he said.

The bakery prioritizes the use of high-quality ingredients in all of its products, and both Hellands stick to the philosophy of using only the best for customers. Eric even said that cancer patients have come in and said that the lack of artificial ingredients and preservatives makes their food easier to digest.

“It’s very gratifying,” he said. “I’m doing something that has been done for thousands of years, and no matter how high-tech the equipment I use is, the basic concept of taking grain and baking it is a profession I’m carrying on.”

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An assortment of pastries on display at Ravelin Bakery.

Daily Bread

The first Ravelin employee comes in at 1 a.m., and Eric arrives at 2:30 a.m. and leaves around 11 or noon.

The bread they make one day will set for 24 hours before being shaped into loaves, after which they’re left to rise for 24 more hours before being baked.

In addition to doing each level of preparation for the bread for each staggered batch, the croissants and danishes for the day need to be baked and decorated for the display case. The wide spread of doughy delights has to be ready when the bakery opens at 6:30 a.m.

The core offerings of Ravelin are fairly standard, with a handful of options for croissants, danishes and cookies that occasionally change depending on the season or holiday. For Valentine’s day, the bakery offers a box of chocolate-dipped strawberries, as well as extravagant cookie boxes that are decorated accordingly.

“You get to touch people’s lives,” he said. “You don’t realize it until the kids you saw used to come in every day are now graduating from college, or they’re having kids and bringing them to the bakery.”

The bakery’s creations are not only carefully made, but they hold an impression. Layla Hernandez, who hasn’t been to the bakery in more than a year, still remembers the last pastry she had.

“It was a mixed berry tart slice,” she said. “It was amazing, I think I’m going to have to get another one today.”

By sharing his love of baking with all the people who walk through his door, Eric said he feels incredibly lucky to share a piece of his own life with the lives of hundreds of people.

“I get to present it, as this is what I do and this is the best I can do,” he said. “You get to not only be a part of their lives, but bring joy and happiness into them.”

The primary growth the bakery strives for, Eric said, is not financial, but in the quality of the product they produce. To this day, he actively takes professional baking classes to improve his craft and come back with new ideas to make the bakery even better.

“In the end, the product is better for the customer when we try to grow in this way,” he said. “That’s the only kind of growth you’ll ever see us do in the next few years. That’s what’s important to us.”

Featured Photo: Owner of Ravelin Bakery Co. Eric Helland and his wife Pamela have run the shop for 13 years. Photo by Matt Wood – Senior Staff Writer

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