If John Delvecchio of Delvecchio’s Bakery had a slogan, “Sweets with a smile” would be it.
A steady flow of customers came into the bakery in the Bayville Shopping Center on Route 54 near Fenwick Island on Tuesday, each aiming to satisfy their sweet tooth, and each was personally greeted. The former professional pastry chef has owned the bakery for 11 years now and, after more than a decade of baking pies, cakes, pastries and breads, still serves his sweets with a smile and a “How are you?”
Delvecchio started his baking career fresh out of high school, after moving out west from his native New Jersey. He baked his way through being a firefighter cadet and eventually moved back east and received his degree from the Culinary Institute in New York after tiring of always working two or three jobs to stay afloat.
He worked in hotels and restaurants and, after receiving his degree, moved to Palm Beach, Fla. He even started teaching at South Tech and Palm Beach Community College in the evenings, as well as baking.
“I never did give up two jobs,” he recalled, but he enjoyed the work and the fun of teaching both for-credit courses and “fun classes” for various groups and clubs.
After getting more and more into teaching and doing less baking, he started up a consulting business, which is what brought him up to the shores of Delaware and Maryland. He worked for five years for the Olive Tree bakery in Ocean City and Berlin, Md., before venturing into Fenwick and purchasing what is now known as Delvecchio’s Bakery.
“I was helping out a buddy during the winter, and I had never driven on this road [Route 54] before. And he told me about this bakery that had been for sale and was being offered for half the original price and had already been reduced a couple of times. So I came and bought it,” he recalled.
That was 11 years ago.
Since then, he has grown his business from a mostly summer place that sold doughnuts to a full-fledge bakery, baking everything from scratch on-site, except bagels. They make large and small Italian breads, a flax-seed whole-wheat bread, Italian sticks, and pepperoni and cheese bread, as well as sweets like sticky buns, those doughnuts, cinnamon buns, muffins, turnovers, danishes, pies and cakes.
This year, as a first, they also offered Edy’s ice cream as an added special sweet treat.
While it slows down a bit in the off-season, as many resort businesses do, Delvecchio’s has enjoyed steady growth each year.
“The first year we started, we sold 16 pies for Thanksgiving,” he said. “And last year we sold about 400.”
Although growth has been steady, he has seen prices rise, just as everyone has in recent months. Flour that used to cost $10 to $13 per bag now costs $30, but he has tried to keep the resulting effects on his customers at a minimum.
“With increases like that, I’m looking at charging somebody $8 for a loaf of bread. I can’t do that,” he said, “so I just nickled and dimed everything this year, and we came out pretty even.”
And, although his goal in getting his degree was to not have to work two and three jobs, he never did give that up. He teaches baking and pastry classes at Wor-Wic Community College and works at Walmart to keep the bills paid. It is obvious to the customers and to bystanders that his true love is the interaction with them and not only giving them a product but giving them an experience.
“How’s your Mom?” he asked a customer.
“Sure, no problem,” he said to another who asked about an anniversary cake.
“Did you get your hair done?” he asked one more.
His reasoning his simple. He understands that his store is a specialty store and luxuries such as pastries are easy to give up in hard financial times.
“I have the best product around,” he said, proud of the tangible goodies he offers his customers. “But anybody could get my recipes. Greeting the customers, smiling, that’s 90 percent of being successful. People have to get gas — I don’t care if it’s $10 a gallon — and they have to get groceries. But, to come here they have to make a special trip. So I gotta make it special for them.”
As for his future, Delvecchio is revamping his Web site in the hopes of soon being able to have a better Web prescience and to offer online sales.
Delvecchio’s Bakery is open year-round. Until Thanksgiving, their hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. After the holiday, the Friday and Saturday hours will be shorter. For more information, call (302) 436-9618.