At least once a month, Chris and Crystal Leduc treated themselves to brioche donuts and breakfast burritos at SōDOUGH Baking Co. in Midtown — not knowing they would one day own it.
They bought the Thomasville Road bakery on Jan. 1 and jumped in. He applies his professional photography skills toward the company’s marketing and social media.
While the bakery is a creative outlet for him, he said SōDOUGH revived his wife. Her nursing job amid the relentless COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on her mental and emotional state.
“I definitely saw how it wore on her and her happiness,” he said. “This in general kind of helped to bring back old Crystal … Crystal before COVID.”
The jump from nursing to baking
Even as a girl, Crystal dreamed of being a nurse and remembers one of her first toys being a nurse’s kit, equipped with a stethoscope and tiny blood pressure cuffs.
The Palatka native landed her first job out of high school in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit wing at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and worked there for two years before returning home to be with the love of her life, Chris.
Their love grew and so did her knack for nursing. It wasn’t long before she became a nurse manager in Putnam. Once married, the couple decided Tallahassee would be their fresh start together.
In July 2019, Leduc was hired as Capital Regional Medical Center’s house supervisor, where she responded to emergency codes within the 266-bed hospital, placed patients after admission and coordinated staffing and transfers.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit six months into Leduc’s tenure. She saw suffering and death firsthand as the coronavirus ravaged and strained the health care system.
“There was no leadership for the COVID Unit at the time, so I felt called to serve in that role,” Leduc said. “I found out I was pregnant two months before I took that position.”
She worked within the hospital’s COVID Unit for much of the pandemic. Leduc witnessed more colleagues and their loved ones become critically ill. As the pandemic persisted, the 26-year-old couldn’t shake images of patients whose lives were cut short and died.
“Part of my job was to fill out the paperwork after the patient expired, and I just wrote so many birthdays that were close to my own,” Leduc said. “There was one week where I lost five patients under 30 years old.”
While she loved being a nurse, her dream job during a global pandemic became at times too much to bear.
She had night terrors. Her baby boy, Maddox, was born in February 2021. The first-time mother couldn’t cradle him once she came home from a hard 13-hour, gut-wrenching shift, not knowing if she would infect her infant.
A sit down at SōDOUGH
Downtime amid her busy work and home life brought some relief in the form of baking and Leduc’s passion project: making loose-leaf teas.
They brought her much-needed joy. She started a side gig, Harvest and Steep Company, where her products included herbal green teas to dessert variations, including carrot cake.
By late 2021, Leduc decided to commit more time toward her new passion and work part time in the hospital. A tea-centric coffee shop became their new pursuit.
She and her husband reached out to Matt Thompson, a successful entrepreneur who owned SōDOUGH Baking Co. and Madison Social restaurant through his For The Table Hospitality Company.
At the Leducs’ behest, Thompson graciously agreed to meet and dispensed advise. Initially, the couple considered wholesaling baked goods from SōDOUGH, which made its Tallahassee debut about five years ago and had a strong following among locals.
They all met at SōDOUGH. While talking, Leduc said Thompson playfully said he’d sell the bakery to them the next day if they wanted. The couple laughed it off, went home and wondered if the bakery may be a good fit.
“The more I thought about it, Chris and I emailed him and said, ‘Hey, are you serious about it,’ and he said yes,” she said. “We proceeded to move forward.”
Within 72 hours, Thompson said things moved pretty quickly once they all were on the same page and the deal was done. Very little legal. Very little accounting. Thompson and his team handed over all of the bakery’s vendors and information needed to change hands.
“My whole view for them was, they could walk into a business that already had a successful brand, a successful product and a social media following without having to start from scratch,” Thompson said.
The timing worked out for Thompson because the bakery’s five-year lease was about to end in May and SōDOUGH’s chief baker relocated.
He and his team considered relocating out of Midtown but ultimately decided the bakery no longer fit the suite of businesses managed by For The Table Hospitality, including its new Charlie Park Lounge at the AC Hotel by Marriott at Cascades and Social Kitchen, a drop-off food concept for catered events for self service.
By Jan. 1, the Leducs were the owners of SōDOUGH. The bakery’s brioche donuts are still a staple, along with its best-selling breakfast burritos made with eggs, cheddar cheeses, bacon or potatoes. They’ve infused Crystal’s teas into the menu, along with more savory options.
“I love spreading joy to other people. It’s been fantastic,” Leduc said. “Most of the time, people are happy to buy a doughnut or a treat.”
While Leduc is working on her new business, she still works part time as Capital Regional’s house manager at least once a month or as needed: “Once you’re a nurse, you’re always a nurse.”
Contact TaMaryn Waters at email@example.com or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.
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