Lighthouse Rum Cakes, which opened in downtown Shelton a year ago, will begin offering crepes and coffee in the morning and early afternoon. (Photos by Brad Durrell)
Jon and Michele Vallee moved their gourmet cake company to 480 Howe Ave., where they make all the rum cakes they ship to gourmet shops and other establishments around the Northeast.
Now the goal is to serve breakfast crepes and dessert crepes as well as organic coffee, partly as a way to expose more retail customers to their cakes.
They said once people taste the rum cakes, they tend to come back. “We have a lot of repeat customers,” Jon Vallee said.
Lighthouse will be open six days a week, including at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays.
The Vallees first discovered the taste of high-quality rum cakes while boating in the Caribbean, and then they won a United Technologies Corp. cooking contest with their own creations.
The Milford couple later started a business to make and sell them to the public, working out of leased kitchens before buying the Shelton location in 2014.
Fast-growing wholesale business
Jon Vallee said the wholesale business grew 500% last year, and they regularly ship rum cakes to retailers from Maine to New Jersey.
They expect triple-digit growth this year again as they expand to the Great Lakes region.
Lighthouse has added a new employee, Jelissa Gonzalez, a recent graduate of Lincoln Culinary Institute, to help out in the kitchen.
Jon Vallee said the closing of Stockbridge nearby motivated them to expand their offerings, noting there’s now a niche for good quality food to fill in the downtown.
The crepes are designed to be eaten on the go, coming in triangular-shaped cardboard cups for carrying and eating. Gluten-free options are available.
The Vallees learned firsthand about the popularity of crepes during a trip to Annapolis, Md., and they see an opportunity to expand the kind of crepes they offer in the future. They also hope to have more lunch-type items as well as waffles.
The coffee they sell is from a local small-batch roaster, Trumbull-based Shearwater.
‘Evolution of downtown’
Mayor Mark Lauretti said Lighthouse Rum Cakes is part of “the evolution of downtown.”
Lauretti said small businesses such as Lighthouse create the most new jobs, adding he once owned a restaurant a few doors down the street.
Lauretti said the area near Lighthouse could get a boost from future development, including the possibility of City Hall being relocated nearby.
Bill Purcell, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce president, thanked the Vallees for their confidence in downtown. “They own this piece of the rock,” he said.
Purcell called the Vallees “entrepreneurs” and an “accomplished couple,” with Michele being a nurse practitioner and Jon a mechanical engineer.
He said the business represents their “passion,” and now they are “adding a new dimension” to the operation with the menu items.
New store hours
The new Lighthouse store hours, with food available, are:
— Monday to Thursday, 5:30-1 p.m.
— Friday, 5:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
— Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
(Closed on Sunday)