In 1982, Theresa Hammons was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her first daughter, Ashley, when she and her husband Greg opened Ashley’s Pastry Shop in Oakwood.
Nestled in a building that has housed one bakery or another for more than 90 years, Ashley’s has been a household name in Dayton for generations when it comes to doughnuts, cakes, cookies and other fresh pastries.
The key to the couple’s success is no secret at all. Sure, one Ashley’s butter cookie will give you an extra bounce in your step that will last the rest of the day. But most people in the community would agree that Theresa’s genuine kindness, which greets each person with who comes through the bakery’s door, is what has made the shop a local staple.
Theresa met her husband, Greg, while they were both students at the University of Cincinnati, but moved to Detroit after graduation where Greg worked in the restaurant business. When the building on Park Ave. in Oakwood became vacant, the couple saw an opportunity to move back closer to family and jumped at it.
With Theresa’s marketing skills and Greg’s food production expertise, Theresa said they have been the perfect team ever since they opened shop.
Ashley’s Pastry Shop won the Best of Dayton 2017 “Best Bakery” category, and Theresa Hammons is our Daytonian of the Week.
🍩 What has been your biggest joy from running Ashley’s Pastry Shop?
“From the little kids who are on their way to school in the morning stopping by to get a doughnut, or that stop by after school because they got a great grade on their project. We get to see the beginning of generations right here, right before our eyes. There’s people that come in every single day — we can set our watch to it.
It’s really neat because we have people that come back to our bakery when they’re in town for class reunions or visiting family and they walk in and one of the first things they always say is, ‘Oh, it smells just like I remember.’ Because we are truly a bakery that still does all our baking on premise. So, when you open our doors, you smell the bakery, you smell the aromas in the oven and you see the activity in the back of the shop. It’s just a great testament to that things change in life— and my gosh everything changes so very much— but it’s so wonderful that there are things that remain the same.”
🍩 You studied marketing in college. After 36 years, have you been able to learn the ins and outs of the actual baking side of the business?
“I can really do just about everything. The thing about running a small business, especially one that is service-driven, there’s not really any definition of ‘this is my job description’ and ‘this is all I’m gonna do.’ I think that’s what enables me to love what I do as much as I do, because each day is so different. I may be mixing, pulling things in and out of the oven, then running deliveries and then cleaning the pans.
Especially when you’re working in a small business as close as we are with our employees. They know me and my husband are going to be right there beside them working with them. It enables a great sense of employee relationship with us.”
🍩 Are you ever overwhelmed with being surrounded by so much sugar every day?
“It’s like you get almost a sugar high in a way. It’s almost like over stimulation. I find that if I come in the morning, if I don’t start to nibble, then I’m ‘okay’ throughout the day. But if I come in and I have a little cookie, or bread, or danish— I just find myself not being able to stop the rest of the day.
🍩 What product are you and your husband most proud of creating?
“I probably would have to say the Sand Tart cookie, just because it’s been like a connection that’s enabled us, you know, it’s been a staple of this bakery forever so it just reminds people of their past from so many years ago. Keep in mind, the Orville home is right at the top of this street here. So there’s a couple of things that we make that they would come and get (at one of the bakeries preceeding Ashley’s). Being in this bakery and imagining, ‘Oh gosh, Orville and Wilbur (shopped here).’
Also, the Cronut is a trademarked name, so we call ours glazed croissants. Very similar, but we were making them long before the gentleman in New York. We just didn’t trademark it.”
🍩 How does a bakery know when they’ve got a great doughnut?
“Freshness is of course the best thing ... One of the things we’ve started to do when we were in business 36 years ago, is what we don’t sell in a given day, we donate to Catholic Social Services. Because we want our product, when someone’s buying it, to be the freshest it can be.”
🍩 Why Did you and your husband want to make giving back to the community such an important part of Ashley’s?
“We’re very fortunate that we have the ability to give back to the community that has been so tremendous to us and has supported us for the last 36 years. That was just a big committment that my husband and I made. When you make that delivery down to St. Vincent’s, or you connect with House of Bread...and you see the ounce of difference we can give in terms of a loaf of bread, or a dozen cookies, or a few coffee cakes— the difference it really makes in the lives of people that really aren’t that far from us. You don’t really have to go that far to realize the need is so prevalent right here in Dayton, Ohio. ... My husband and I have to have a passion about the organization and then we’re on board full force.”
🍩 Dayton: why do you love it so much?