Ray Degele has had a busy couple of weeks.
At the end of October, Taste of Home magazine published an article declaring the best bakery in each of the 50 states — Depoe Baykery, Degele’s business, was named Oregon’s best bakery. Rather than getting notice from the magazine first, Degele heard the news from some of the people he sees most: customers. Since then, he said it’s been a couple of busy weeks, especially for November.
As Degele explained, it’s been a cherry on top of a great year: “This year has been our best year since we started.”
That start was nine years ago in the Lincoln City and Waldport farmers’ markets. Now, Depoe Baykery sits on Highway 101 just south of Chester’s Thriftway in Depoe Bay. It’s hard to miss when driving past — the building is bright yellow with orange trim.
“The orange is my favorite color, yellow is my wife Debi’s favorite color,” explained Degele, who credits his wife with all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the bakery.
Once inside, customers can see past the counter and into the back, where bakers laminate croissant dough, fry up doughnuts and roll-out cookies — among the many other delectable treats they produce for the display case. And, they can see the clean kitchen which Degele prides himself on.
Degele describes himself as an old-fashioned baker, who learned everything he knows from “the University of John” — to put it plainly, studying under his father, John, who was also a baker. Degele grew up working in his family’s bakery and, while he pursued a few other lines of work as an adult, baking has always pulled him back in.
“This is where I really enjoy myself,” said Degele. “And, since I’ve opened up the bakery, it’s been incredible. I really enjoy the freedom of doing what I wanted and taking care of the customers in the way that they deserve to be taken care of.”
Part of how he takes care of those customers includes carrying their goods — at the bakery, locally authored books and handcrafted jewelry can be found, as well as many business cards for local business and services. Not to mention, Degele’s business donates day-old products to Neighbors For Kids and church groups. He also takes pride in helping out in the schools and with Little League. In all of these endeavors, his principle of hard work shines through — as the owner of the bakery, Degele has taken off fewer than seven days in nine years.
Degele and his employees will come in at midnight to start the day’s work in the summer, and in the winter they come in only an hour later. Almost everything in the bakery is made from scratch, and he doesn’t put any preservatives into the breads and baked goods for sale, so the case rotates daily to keep everything fresh and at peak quality.
But flavor is where Degele strays from tradition — in the eclair case, for instance, customers may be delighted to find salted caramel chocolate eclairs with a splash of vodka in the filling. In the doughnut case, Degele’s award-winning “Turtle Bismark” is available for a try, and, on Thursdays, there’s a strawberry jalapeno fritter on the menu.
“I like to experiment, I’m not stuck in a rut,” Degele said with a smile. “I think that’s half the fun of baking, is just taking something and you just change it up a little bit and you get a whole different product.”
Depoe Baykery is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or until they’ve sold out. They are closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as well as from Christmas day to Jan. 23. The bakery is located at 3830 N Highway 101 in Depoe Bay.