by Mary Cokenour
Nowadays, the American economy is full of unemployment, federal and state funds being consumed by teenagers living on welfare due to unplanned pregnancies, and an American school system that does not provide skills for adulthood.
Small towns can no longer expect their children to live on the laurels of their ancestors; this does not bring food to the family table nor put savings in the bank to reach financial goals. In fact, small towns will eventually shrink smaller and become ghost towns. Adult-age young people are leaving for the big cities where the jobs, and money, are.
How about a concept that is not novel, but might save the future of a small town? A business that employs youths between the ages of 10 to 18; teaches them business and life skills, manners, and customer relations; and teaches them skills that provide a platform to grow in life???
Yes, such a business does exist, right here in Blanding, UT. It was established in 2004 by Elaine Borgen, a volunteer with AmeriCorps Vista. Currently, she resides in Henderson, NV where she runs an Artisan Bakery for homeless women, teaching them skills to go forth in life with goals.
At first, the shop was known as “Lickity Split Chocolates”, homemade chocolates that were so delicious and scrumptious. However, it became too well known and successful. Orders for locals and for shipping to other areas simply became too much to handle. The youth worked primarily just to fill orders; education was becoming second best.
Back to the drawing board, and “Lickity Split Bakery” was born in 2008. Baked-in-the-shop cakes, cookies and pies; breakfast fare such as quiche and crepes; and lunch specials all locals love, Navajo Tacos.
It’s now 2016 and, the bakery is going strong. I was able to stop in one Wednesday to speak with Chef Leon Sampson, one of the instructors and mentors of the children. This gentleman beams with pride as he talks about “the little bakers”.
While mainly Navajo, any child between the age of 10 to 18, who resides in San Juan County, is welcomed to come to the shop to learn and work.
He shows off the goods they have created and explains, “Lickity Split Bakery provides a community service for young people. They become skilled in business/work ethics, nutrition in food, life in general.
“After high school graduation, they now know where their next step in life leads. Whether to college or business directly, they can make a choice on their own.”
Leon’s own son, Trevor Sampson, is currently a CEO of Lickity Split Bakery…he’s only 16 years old!
Elysia is one of the Navajo young ladies who has worked at the Bakery for five years now. She is not only adept at baked goods, but runs the front counter with ease. Her favorite part of the entire experience? Well, the baking of course!
Two items I tried out that morning were the, and this was literally a mouthful, “Pumpkin Almond Cinnamon Roll with Orange Scented Cream Cheese Frosting”. Try saying that three times fast.
As with any cinnamon roll, the outside layer had a crispness, but the inside layers were pillowy soft and moist; the frosting silky smooth with the correct hint of orange to tease the senses.
Then there was the Biscuit Crusted Bacon Cheddar Quiche; rich, eggy goodness full of onions, bacon and cheddar that slapped the taste buds up one side and down the other. It was difficult, oh so difficult, not to buy and try the Blueberry Scone (I swear it was about 5” x 7” large); colorful Ice Box Cookies; or chocolate drizzled Chocolate Almond Cookies.
Currently, Lickity Split Bakery is open Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is also only open seasonally, due to the fact the children must attend their regular schools during the year.
On July 4, 2016, a second shop was opened on Main Street, next to the San Juan Theatre, which will serve ice cream, cookies and crepes.
Imagine, though, if a work study program could be established where these wonderful, bright, imaginative 10- to 18-year-olds could gain school credit for the skills learned at the bakery.
Imagine if such a program could happen in all small towns, not just within San Juan County, but throughout the United States. No, not a novel concept. Perhaps a scary one to those who hold on tightly to the laurels of their ancestors, but then again, this is the 21st century, and the universe is infinite.
Lickity Split Bakery, 87 South Main Street (Hwy 191), Blanding, UT, 435-459-9455.
Hours of operation: Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., seasonal.