La PORTE — It didn’t take New Age Baking Company owner No’ Val Alexander to find out he had a new hit on his hand in La Porte.
Earlier this month, he and his team opened the doors to their new downtown bakery, located at the former PackMan’s Pizzeria at 612 Lincoln Way.
Alexander had spent the night before hard at work in his New Carlisle kitchen preparing for the big launch, making 2,000 donuts – enough to stock several Dunkin’ shops – 210 cinnamon rolls, eight dozen muffins, 18 dozen turnovers and 100 bear claws, among other treats.
In a little under four hours after the staff welcoming the shop’s first batch of customers, there wasn’t a single doughnut crumb left on the shelves, Alexander said.
“We were lucky to have enough left for when the mayor came for the ribbon-cutting,” the owner said.
The cinnamon rolls? Gone.
The bear claws? Sold out.
The muffins and turnovers? Gobbled up by hungry La Porteans.
“My face was hurting the next day because I was smiling from ear to ear the entire time,” Alexander said about the opening. “It couldn’t have been more perfect.”
The successful debut of New Age’s La Porte bakery marks the latest achievement in the life of 3-year-old New Carlisle business – and that of Alexander’s nearly 25-year career in baking.
The Gary native got his first taste of the industry in 1996, when he landed a job with Dawn Food Products in Crown Point, Indiana, after moving back to his home state following his graduation from the University of Tennessee, where he studied business.
Alexander quickly began to learn all the ins and outs of the food production service. His abilities caught the eyes of his superiors, who sent him to the American Institute of Baking, located in Manhattan, Kansas, to further hone his budding passion for baking.
“It was a challenge,” he said when asked what sparked his love for the field. “I like to learn different things and get good at them.”
In 2007, Alexander would return to the institute for an in-depth residency course.
The program was a “baking boot camp” of sorts, requiring students to formulate original recipes for various products, he said. Most importantly, the class focused on the fundamental science behind baking, explaining in painstaking detail the purpose of each basic component – flour, sugar, yeast, etc. – Alexander said.
The extensive education served the baker well over the next decade, as he traveled the country helping national chain restaurants develop and refine their bread recipes.
In 2017, though, Alexander decided to bring his years of experience behind the mixing bowl and oven to his hometown of New Carlisle, opening New Age Baking Company with his wife, Lori.
Over the past three years, the bakery has developed a loyal following throughout the local region, mainly for its gigantic yeast doughnuts. Alexander and his wife prepare the breakfast treats daily, along with an assortment of other baked goods, like cookies, brownies, cakes, muffins and more, for sale to customers.
The baker prides himself on the quality of his products, he said. He and his team use all-natural ingredients to create their various doughnut frostings, for instance – the strawberry flavor uses real strawberries, while the maple flavor uses real maple syrup.
Alexander is always coming up with creative additions to his lineup, as well, like his popular Fruity Pebbles doughnut, coated with vanilla frosting and topped with flakes of the multicolored cereal.
Another major factor in New Age’s appeal is the value it offers customers, Alexander said. Doughnuts cost less than $2, far less than one would expect given their size and quality, the baker said.
With business going strong in New Carlisle, Alexander decided last winter to expand New Age’s presence, with the business owner setting his sights on the Maple City.
“Forty-eight percent of our customers are from La Porte, so it was a no-brainer for me,” he said.
He instantly fell in love with the former PackMan’s storefront downtown, spending several weeks transforming the space into a cozy place for people to stop in, grab a donut and coffee, and relax for a spell.
Sales have continued to soar since New Age’s tremendous opening day, Alexander said.
The shop routinely sells out of its daily stock of doughnuts, which the bakery produces in New Carlisle and ships to La Porte before opening. On one recent Saturday, the shop managed to run through 3,200 doughnuts in less than five hours, Alexander said.
With the wind at New Age’s back, Alexander is hard at work baking up new ideas for the company’s future.
The owner would like to eventually begin producing fresh doughnuts from the La Porte bakery’s kitchen. He is currently training his 19-year-old son, Nathan, in hopes of having him take over production at the Lincoln Way location soon, he said.
He also plans to expand the La Porte location’s offerings, adding pizza, ice cream and gourmet coffee to the mix.
Alexander is also looking to continue to expand New Age to other locations, including Michigan City, South Bend, Chesterton and Valparaiso, he said.
“We’re trying to build this brand,” he said. “We want to become a household name.”
For the time being, though, Alexander and his team want to continue to build its relationship with its growing number of customers who are propelling New Age to greater and greater heights.
“I want to give thanks, a shout out to the community for showing strong every day that we’re open,” Alexander said. “We appreciate it a lot.”
New Age Baking Company’s La Porte location is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. – or until doughnuts are sold out – Tuesday through Saturday. The bakery can be reached at 219-344-5148 or by visiting newagebakingcompany.com.