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From furloughed to opening their own bakery: Louisville chefs make their dreams come true

"If one good thing came out of COVID, it was Leaven Bakery."

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — Leaven Bakery is the result of perseverance and dedication.

Before March 2020, Kimberly and Zechariah Maxey were working as chefs in Louisville. Kimberly was the executive pastry chef at the Brown Hotel, while Zechariah worked as a sous-chef at Jack Frys.

When the Maxeys were furloughed in Spring 2020, they thought, like so many others, it would be a quick break.

"We just thought in two weeks everything is going to be back to normal, let's take this as a small vacation," Kimberly Maxey said.

Two weeks turned into four, which then quickly turned into eight weeks. The Maxeys applied for unemployment, but like so many others, theirs was backlogged.

"I felt like it was done, we felt like our industry was fading away," she said. 

It was an uncertain time for the Maxeys. The couple never received any unemployment benefits, and with bills adding up they had to make a decision. They came together and decided to lean on what they knew best: bread. 

"The grocery stores were out of flour and pretty much out of everything," Our family and friends knew we always had a good stockpile of butter and flour," Kimberly Maxey said. 

The couple began their side hustle of delivering baked goods out of their apartment kitchen, using Facebook as a marketing tool. As the pandemic continued, their business slowly grew. They were delivering a total of 40 orders a week, before deciding to expand about a year after the furlough.

"One year ago we didn't know where we were going to be, we just felt completely lost; and with the help of the community, here we are today," Kimberly Maxey said. 

The young chefs have always wanted to work for themselves, the pandemic just pushed them to pursue their passion project. 

"If one good thing came out of COVID, it was Leaven Bakery because it gave us that push to be like, OK it's time, this is it," Kimberly Maxey said.

The bakery held an official ribbon cutting on July 15.

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