Blind baker delivers fresh, hot cinnamon rolls to customers in eastern Idaho
HIBBARD – An ordinary person performing an ordinary task under extraordinary circumstances.
That’s how you might describe Leslie Alexander, a 64-year-old business owner near Rexburg. Three days a week, Alexander makes fresh, warm specialty cinnamon rolls from a well-loved family recipe out of her Hibbard home and delivers them to customers all over eastern Idaho.
What’s extraordinary, however, is that Alexander is blind.
“I have about 3 percent sight in one eye now,” Alexander tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Her blindness is the result of a car accident in Salt Lake City seventeen years ago that tore her brain stem and damaged an optic nerve.
“(My husband and I) were at a standstill on I-15 and an 18-year-old girl who was putting make-up on (while she was driving) didn’t see us.”
Alexander’s vehicle was sandwiched between the girl’s car and someone else’s car.
“My life was changed in an instant,” Alexander says. “Doctors said I would never be able to go back to work.”
The crash incapacitated Alexander. Following several months of recovery, she spent the next six years in therapy relearning how to talk, walk and other basic skills. For the next two years, she lived at the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Salt Lake City to learn how to function as a blind person.
“I started to learn braille,” Alexander says. “I still have (teachers come to my house once a week to help me). So it’s ongoing.”
Alexander and her husband later relocated to Salmon. After eight years, the isolation and the long distance from town and other amenities was more than they could take. They didn’t want to move back to Utah, so Rexburg became an attractive option for them. Six months ago, they bought their home in Hibbard.
“It’s wonderful. We’re seven minutes away from a grocery store. We giggle and get in the car and drive through McDonald’s,” says Alexander.
Within two weeks of moving to Rexburg, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a certified guide dog training school in New York which Alexander attended, provided her with a dog to help her get around. She says having a guide dog has enhanced her ability to be more mobile.
It was during her time as a student at Guiding Eyes that she first got the idea for her cinnamon roll business.
“I wanted to live independently and I started thinking about what would make me happy,” Alexander says.
She recalled growing up making cinnamon rolls from a recipe passed down from her great-grandmother. A lifetime spent in the kitchen with her sisters helped her realize she could learn to use these skills as a blind person.
The Blind Baker
Alexander got her business license for The Blind Baker, LLC in September and began operations in early December.
Every Monday, Friday and Saturday, Alexander is up at 1 a.m. preparing and baking cinnamon rolls for customers. The rolls come in four different flavors — cinnamon, orange, apple pie, and raspberry. They also come with or without nuts and raisins and are topped off with buttercream cream cheese frosting.
“I’ve developed a management style and production flow that I’m comfortable with,” says Alexander.
She preps the ingredients the night before. A digital audio labeler tells her which ingredients are in which containers. By 7 a.m., she and her husband are out delivering cinnamon rolls in person to customers.
Even though she’s only been doing this a few weeks, she already has more than a dozen regular customers.
“It’s evolved pretty quickly and I’m pleased with where it is at the moment. I think it’s just going to grow,” Alexander says.
One of her newest customers is Teton Stage Lines, a bus chartering company in Idaho Falls. Co-owner Donavan Harrington says he recently heard about Alexander’s business and wanted to give her a call.
“(Leslie’s) product is very desirable. The presentation is well done,” Harrington says. “Not only does she bring the rolls down, but she also brings (utensils and napkins). The fact that she (would consider those details) ahead of time and include that in the delivery is (impressive).”
Maintaining a two or three day a week work load is where Alexander is most comfortable in the short run, but eventually says she would love to have a bakery running five days a week with customers in Idaho and Utah.
For now, though, she is happy to be doing something she is passionate about, despite her disability.
“I’m very grateful that I come from a family of bakers. This is something that makes me happy that I can share with others,” Alexander says.
If you’d like to order cinnamon rolls from The Blind Baker, call (208) 993-3859. You can also visit the Facebook page to learn more.