At Ed's Custom Bakery it's bound to be delicious By Becky Harris
While of gaggle of good ol' boys drank coffee in the morning, sun coming through the big window at Ed's Custom Bakery, across the room a smiling bride-to-be flipped through the pages of photo albums showing photos of elaborate wedding cakes.
Woven through all this was a steady stream of customers, some pausing to decide between chocolate or glazed, apple fritters or cookies; others knew exactly what they wanted.
It was a typical morning at Ed's, a community gathering place, where the staff knows the regulars' names and wishes -- decaf or regular, glazed or cake - and as a bonus, each one's birthday.
Overseeing it all in the mornings, beginning officially at 6, is Julie Goodnight, Ed Bradley's daughter, who has worked at the bakery since 1986, beginning when she was a junior in high school. Her specialty is cake decorating, a self-taught skill she has passed on to many others, some who have stayed 10 years and more.
Her father, Ed Bradley, is "The" Ed, who began his baking career at Kohler's in North Little Rock and plied his trade at Simon's Grocery in Downtown Conway until he moved out to the Oak Street center 23 years ago, moving to a bigger space on the block 13 years ago.
Ed and his crew of five are usually gone by 6 a.m., having baked all night, filling the place with warmth and aromas that entice some happy folks to arrive at 5 a.m., knowing the door will be open and the coffee pot welcoming.
Julie Henry, a cousin by marriage, takes over at noon, supervising a group of earnest high school to college students, some who begin working while in high school and continue through college graduation.
"We are happy when they want to keep working for us," Julie Henry said.
The crews are trained to know the customers and to treat them well.
"It's part of our full service, beginning with quality ingredients and ending with undivided attention to each customer," said Julie Goodnight. "We know people don't have to come here, so we want them to feel they belong. We think of them as our family."
In addition to custom baking for parties and weddings, Ed provides specialty baking daily for local colleges, hotels and pizzerias, the racks filling with donuts and cheese onion breads.
"Ed always wants to have plenty. He never wants a customer to find we are out of anything, so sometimes we have too much," Julie Henry said. "Groups that are appreciative of our extras include Independent Living Services, Bethlehem House, HAVEN, and the Red Cross." On this day, boxes of donuts were marked "Donate" and were destined for the Soul Food CafÃ©.
Some 2,400 dozens of heart cookies were baked and iced for Valentine's Day. In addition, for that weekend, Julie Goodnight decorated four wedding cakes, one ordered just two days before.
"The couple decided on Thursday they wanted to get married on Saturday. We said yes, and I even supplied the flowers. Normally we like a two-week notice for wedding cakes, but we like to be accommodating," she said.
Her record so far is 12 wedding cakes for one weekend. Julie Goodnight decorates, July Henry delivers, and it takes all her concentration to drive carefully and slowly - "Granny low" - to arrive at the event with each perfect rosebud intact.
"Just for Julie's peace of mind, I call her to report that the cake is on time, in place, and safe and sound," Julie Henry said.
The bakery is also a party supplies shop, with trendy balloons, candles, paper plates and napkins, all themed for anniversaries, tea parties and birthdays for all ages.
A rather new technique Julie likes to use is to scan a photo and apply it to the cake in edible ink. "My favorites are old wedding photographs for anniversary parties."
Her photo albums feature cakes for hunters, fishermen, ropers, Marines, bird dogs, Nintendo fans, and many others.
Holidays are busy at Ed's with pies, cakes, and rolls flying out the door as Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts demand. Pastry and cookie trays are popular orders.
To learn there is really an "Ed" at Ed's Custom Bakery was a treat a while back for some of the shop's patrons. Because he works all night and sleeps in the daytime, he misses the bustle of the shop.
"So two years ago we threw him a surprise party for his 60th birthday. We invited all the regulars, and they filled the place," said Julie Henry. "I think most of them just wanted to lay eyes on Ed, to see if he is real."