Jon and Michele Vallee first discovered the uniqueness of rum cakes while boating in the Caribbean.
Now they own and operate their own company making the specialty dessert, and recently moved their operations to downtown Shelton.
“Rum cakes are really popular in the islands, and we hope that happens in New England,” Jon said.
Their Lighthouse Rum Cakes are sold at 35 gourmet and nautical shops from Maine to Mystic, and placed in gift baskets by many flower shops.
They have a large new customer in Bermuda and their rum cakes may soon be available at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Bradley airports.
Store will have retail hours
Shelton residents will be able to buy the rum cakes on Fridays and Saturdays, when the store at 480 Howe Ave. will have retail hours.
Not a fan of rum cake? “We’re known to convert people who don’t like rum cake,” Jon said.
Bill Purcell, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce president, said Lighthouse isn’t just a business for the couple but an avocation.
“The word is spreading far and wide about your recipe,” Purcell said during a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Lighthouse store.
An influx of new residents into downtown Shelton, Purcell said, will create a demand for restaurants and specialty retail shops.
John Anglace, Board of Aldermen president, said Lighthouse offers a unique product that will attract people to its store.
Happenstance led to spot
The Vallees learned the 600-square-foot building was for sale when a search for a floatable cooler in the middle of winter brought them to Shelton.
They were immediately drawn to the building’s historical character and its ready-to-use commercial kitchen.
The couple had been working out of a rented restaurant kitchen in Milford, the city where they live, but needed to expand and decided to buy the small storefront.
Lighthouse makes rum cakes daily, which are vacuum-sealed and will stay fresh for six months without preservatives or refrigeration. They noted that rum is a natural preservative.
Won cooking competition three times
The Vallees started the company after their rum cake won a corporate cooking competition for three years in a row.
The key to a good rum cake, Jon said, is “using the best rum you can buy.” They use Gosling’s from Bermuda.
Their cakes come in different sizes, including a signature five-pound version that he said “is the largest rum cake anyone has ever seen.”
They’ve made a three-tier wedding rum cake as well as custom cakes for weddings and showers. The company also makes gourmet popcorn and cookies.
Both Jon and Michele have full-time jobs. He is an aerospace engineer and she is a school nurse practitioner.