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Freeman’s Bakery offers more than you might think--just ask

August 19, 2018

Kara Barnes prepares fondant pieces at Freeman's Bakery.

FLORENCE, S.C. — “Just Ask!” That’s the motto for Freeman’s Bakery in Florence, which offers more services and baked goods than the average customer might think.

Freeman’s Bakery, which was established in 1963, is a family-owned and -operated bakery that has been in its current location for more than 40 years.

Ellen Cooke, owner of Freeman’s, said the bakery is open for much more than just the sweets customers may see when they walk inside.

“We do a lot more than what’s in our showcases,” Cooke said. “I want customers to know that we can do almost anything. Just because we haven’t ever done it doesn’t mean that we can’t. You don’t know what we can do until you just ask. We are Florence’s hometown bakery. If you need something baked, call us.”

Freeman’s is one of the few “full-line scratch bakeries” left in the nation. “Full-line” means that the bakery carries everything from bread to wedding cakes, while “scratch” refers to the fact that the bakery doesn’t use any mixes or shortcuts when preparing the baked goods.

Cooke said that some of the bakery staff come in at 2 a.m. daily so that they can have fresh product out beginning at 7 a.m. Freeman’s makes and presses its own pie shells, makes its icing from scratch, colors the icing and uses real flour, sugar and eggs.

Cooke said the result is a product with no preservatives or additives that give foods an unhealthy shelf life.

“It’s just like grandma used to make,” Cooke said. “You’ll notice that our baked goods don’t have the shelf life as stuff that you may buy from somewhere else. That’s because we don’t have any added chemicals or preservatives. Baked goods aren’t supposed to last for weeks. That’s not good for our bodies and I just have always believed in doing things the old-fashioned way.”

In addition to its numerous customizable baked goods, including cookies, wedding cakes, ice cream cakes, cupcakes, pastries, cake squares, pies and much more, Freeman’s offers delivery, as well as custom catering for breakfast and lunch for office events to weddings and showers.

“Again, just ask!” Cooke said.

After moving from Coit Street to its current location at 1307 Second Loop Road more than 40 years ago, Freeman’s Bakery has continued to expand. When the bakery started out, it had one parcel about the size of Little China next door to Freeman’s. In 1998, the bakery took over a second space next door to the original and, in the fall of 2017, took over a third spot.

Cooke said the expansion has allowed for more meeting and production space, as well as allowed the bakery to grow its “Icing on the Cake” gift shop. She said there are other ideas in the works, as well, including hosting birthday parties and events in a new meeting room.

“I know I needed more production space and I wanted to be able to add more showcase space,” Cooke said. “We’ve still got some work to do, but I wanted to grow the business. In order to grow, you have to grow your employees and you have to stretch your walls. It’d be nice if you could grow first and then do those things, but it takes making that investment first.”

Cooke said her love for cooking goes back to growing up watching her mother prepare meals in the kitchen at a young age.

“I just was always fascinated with watching my mom when she’d cook,” Cooke said. “She’d make sure that we were all out of the kitchen, but I’d stand out of the way and watch her prepare meals.”

Although there have been many hurdles along the way, Cooke said, she has enjoyed working in the Florence community and believes that Freeman’s Bakery will continue to be a staple in the Pee Dee for years to come.

“Through all of this, God has really orchestrated our steps,” Cooke said. “There were some really tough times in my life, but he continued to sustain us and it was all by his plan. I’ve got nine grandchildren and four children. I’ve put my heart and soul into this so that it can stay in the family. We look to make this a friendly atmosphere and I’ve been so blessed by my customers and my staff over the years.”

Freeman’s is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

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