VALDESE - - The Old World Baking Company in Valdese is in the business of making dreams come true, in addition to serving up delicious pastries and other treats.
Bakery owner Tony Pizzelanti said people who come in and write their wishes on the blackboard wall at the bakery may have them fulfilled, due to a special sponsorship fund. An intern at the bakery originally came up with the idea more than a year ago to have a blackboard for people to write things on.
“Basically, it’s like a bucket list wall – ‘I want to do this before I kick the bucket,’ Pizzelanti said. “We said, ‘Well, let’s help that along. Let’s take that a step more and do something where we actually fund dreams.’ We built this restaurant for the community. Everything we do here is about the community and how to give back.”
Pizzelanti searched for sponsors, but so far only Farris Insurance Agency and the Paul Mears Insurance Agency have signed on. The agencies pay Pizzelanti $50 per month for advertising on the wall in the bakery, and that money goes into a fund to realize people’s wishes.
“We see thousands of people a week that come into the restaurant,” Pizzelanti said. “People sit here and just read the wall. It’s a conversation piece. People write some really interesting things.”
Some the requests made include trips to places like Alaska or Walt Disney World, new cars or experiences like parachuting. Pizzelanti said in order to be eligible to have a wish fulfilled, participants must take a photo of what they write on the board, post it on their Facebook page and tag the bakery.
“That’s how we know who wrote what,” he said.
Valdese resident Devin Decanio, who stops by the bakery regularly, wrote on the board one day that she would like to visit her grandparents in El Mirage, Arizona, since she hadn’t seen them since 2017.
“I had my meal in hand and was almost out the door when the wall caught my eye,” Decanio said.“I went back to the counter and asked for a piece of chalk and decided, why not give it a try? I had seen when they first posted about their wall and the idea behind it and always thought it was such a cool idea, so the thought of being a part of it, even if it's just writing your dream, helps support/encourage others who may want to do the same.”
The staff at the bakery chose her dream to fund in June.
“We look for things where someone is looking to do something benefiting them, but also going outside of themselves,” Pizzelanti said.
Decanio said she was shocked to learn she was chosen.
“I couldn't believe it,” she said.“I have never been one to win anything, so I didn't expect it at all, but still enjoyed the process of writing it on the wall and sharing it with a small story online. But it was such an awesome feeling. I was jumping up and down with a coworker because I got the message at work.”
She is looking forward to the trip.
“I plan to go for Thanksgiving with my significant other,” Decanio said. “He came with me the last time we went to visit and enjoys spending time with them as well. I love having the opportunity to share all the love and stories they have to share with him.”
Pizzelanti encouraged more local businesses to support the project and become sponsors.
“We thought we would get a lot more (sponsors),” he said. “You can’t advertise for $50 a month where thousands of people sit here for half an hour and do nothing but read and stare at the wall. Our goal was to have frames (with sponsors’ advertisements) around the whole perimeter. If we had 20 or 30 sponsors at $50 a month, that would give us a lot of money to call somebody up once a month. We don’t keep any of this money. One-hundred percent of it goes right back to funding a dream.”
Sponsors must make at least a one-year commitment to funding wishes. Pizzelanti said he will not take sponsorships from churches or political organizations.
Decanio shared her thoughts about what the wishing wall does for the community.
“I think of it as a way to get to know or connect with people,” she said. “Anytime I am in there eating my meal, I read that wall, and it gives me an idea of the aspirations of the community. People will write about becoming veterinarians, finding happiness, going to Disney with their family, taking a trip with a loved one, etc. Even though they are all anonymous, it's a piece of humanity, of their hearts etched out with chalk into something everyone can see and feel.”
She and Pizzelanti also shared that the bakery has a program where someone can pay for a drink or a meal for someone else and post the receipt on the wall for someone in need to claim.
“The owners of Old World Bakery never cease to inspire me with their generosity,” Decanio said.“They have opened their home to anyone on Thanksgiving to come share a meal with them, they try to help find homes for animals, they made that wish wall and chose to make my dream come true and they started the give-a-meal, take-a-meal initiative. They are always giving back to the community in some way, and I am always appreciative of seeing them do it. It makes me want to do more.”
Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at email@example.com.