Whitehall couple goes from bakery to 'School of Glee' choir
She had a location already picked out — a storefront, with large windows and ample parking — and a bank loan was being secured.
Customers, too, were lining up to purchase those gooey, chocolate-filled “Squish Monster” bars and tasty “snow ball” treats.
Yet, the realization that opening her own bakery likely would mean the end of family trips to Disney World and more hours away from her 8-year-old daughter, Lila, led Lynnette Kelley to put off her plans, at least for now.
Her family is young, and they've already stuck by her through her “early mid-life crisis” and the creation of a home-based bakery, “HappyJack.” Now was the time to do things as a family and that meant a new endeavor — something Lynnette, Lila and husband Jack could all do together — with the creation of a modern-style performance choir, the “School of Glee.”
“I just want to make the world a better place and I think singing kids makes the world a better place,” said Lynnette, 44, of Whitehall. “I'm excited at the prospect of doing this. The baking thing was my thing. This is our thing.”
Auditions for the “School of Glee,” geared for middle and high school students, will be held at the Whitehall Borough Building, 100 Borough Park Drive, today at 7 p.m.
Lynnette Kelley always has enjoyed baking. Since her mid-20s, she's spent her time in the kitchen whipping up everything from dinner rolls for family events to peach pies and chocolate chip cookies for her friends.
She never realized how good her baked goods were, though, until her boss one day got down on one knee and proposed after eating one of Lynnette's famous apple pies.
He was joking, of course. But he got his point across.
“He said, ‘This is the best pie I've ever had,'” Lynnette Kelley said.
Though, Lynnette, an operations manager at ThoughtForm Design, did meet her prince charming, Jack, at work. He began his post as a graphic artist at the design company in 1998. The two began dating in 1999 and were married in 2002.
Jack Kelley always has enjoyed Lynnette's baking, especially that tasty apple pie.
Lila, too, enjoys mom's baking.
“It's yummy. Very, very yummy,” she said.“I like that I can just have someone that can just be there when I want dessert.”
In 2010, when Lynnette Kelley said she began thinking, “What do I want to do with my life?” and exploring her options, Jack supported her.
Lynnette Kelley decided, in addition to her day job, to open a home-based bakery where she would make baked goods at the couple's Whitehall residence to sell at the local farmers market, which she started doing in 2010.
The math major in her wanted to name the business “3.14 bakery” in reference to the math equivalent of pie. But that name always seemed to take an explanation and Lynnette said she wanted something that evoked feeling.
The couple decided to name the business “HappyJack,” because Lynnette's baking always seems to bring a smile to Jack's face, they said.
In 2011, Lynnette Kelley got a permit to work out of a commercial kitchen – the Grand Residence, a senior citizens home in Upper St. Clair — which allowed her to sell her baked goods directly to customers and at local coffee shops.
Lynnette continued looking for ways to expand “HappyJack,” she said. That's when she decided to open a store-front shop, and gave her notice at ThoughtForm.
Her bosses, though offered her more money, a better position and would make her a shareholder if she stayed.
That made the decision tough.
“I really wanted to do the bakery,” she said.
The sacrifices, though, would have been too great, Lynnette Kelley said, and would have taken away too much time from her growing daughter. “I don't want to miss things.”
Customers at The Dancing Bean coffee shop in Caste Village where Lynnette sells her baked goods were disappointed to learn of the end of “HappyJack,” said coffee shop owner Marianne Bonidie.
She heard it all from “Oh, it's awful,” to “We're so disappointed” and “What are we going to do?” Bonidie said.
Lynnette's permit to bake at a commercial site runs through July, so she will continue to sell her goods at The Dancing Bean until then, she said.
“I do it for the look that people give me – that smile, when I hand them their cookies or pies,” Lynnette Kelley said.
Lynnette's goods are made with all natural ingredients and altered recipes that she finds online.
“I try to put a little bit of a twist on everything that I make,” Lynnette Kelley said.
A new tune
Jack Kelley, 44, performed in rock bands throughout his 20s and 30s.
“I always had a knack for arranging music,” he said.
Lynnette Kelley was in the church choir at Holy Child Parish in Bridgeville for 16 years and played the guitar.
Music always has bonded the Kelleys, who took a road trip to Philadelphia on one of their first dates to see “Fountains of Wayne.” At their wedding, even, their favors were a mixed CD of their favorite love songs.
“Part of what hooked me to him was the music that he liked,” Lynnette Kelley said.
Their favorite style of music is “independent pop,” said Jack Kelley, noting he started “getting the itch” to begin arranging music again after having been out of bands for several years.
The couple enjoys watching music performances on television together, especially when children are singing, Lynnette Kelley said. Something about a child performing always makes them cry, while Lila sits there giggling.
The couple decided to start a local choir, based off of Fox's hit drama “Glee” and the 2003 film “School of Rock.”
But they weren't sure that their ideas would work — so they formed a test group, of sorts, working with Lynnette's niece Paige Franjione, a freshman at South Fayette High School, and three of her friends.
They oversaw the girls performance for Dance Workshop by Shari's “Gifts of Dance” showcase. “It felt so great being a part of something,” Paige, 15, said. “We got to sing songs that we knew and we enjoyed.”
That's the point of “School of Glee” — forget the stuffy choir robes and boring melodies, this is about having fun and singing modern hits the youths will enjoy.
Whitehall Borough will allow the Kelley clan to use the multi-purpose room for rehearsals.
“We want to be the fun, singing choir,” Jack Kelley said. “We're not going to take ourselves seriously.”
The group plans to perform at local festivals, for now, “or maybe we open for some rock band someday,” Jack Kelley said.
As for “HappyJack,” the Kelley's might have moved on to music, but Lynnette's not giving up her dream of a bakery just yet. She's just putting it off until Lila gets older.
“I would love, years from now, for there to be a space open in Caste and to be able to open my own bakery here,” Lynnette said. “I have the passion and I have the drive to do it.”
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.