Gayle Baity fell in love with the luscious greenery and beautiful mountains that make up western North Carolina when she first came here 27 years ago.
Baity, originally from Atlanta, Ga., enjoyed the serenity and slower pace of life that rural North Carolina offered, so she uprooted her children to make a new life for herself in Yadkin County.
“I was raised by my single mother in Atlanta,” Baity said. “She worked in a cotton mill to support my three brothers and me.”
Baity said that her mother instilled a strong work ethic in her and her brothers, requiring them to do the household chores and yard work. By the age of 12 they all had jobs to help support the household.
“I got married to my high school sweetheart when I was 16 years old and I had my first child 15 months later when I was 17 years old,” Baity said. “Life wasn’t always easy; there were a lot of struggles having a child that early.”
Baity said that she found work doing whatever she could and went on to complete her high school education in a class for adults in the evenings. She would continue her education through community colleges; taking classes that applied to whatever field she was in at the time.
In the 1980s she took up work as a medical assistant in an ear, nose and throat doctor in Atlanta. In 1980 her mother died and she and her husband went through a divorce and Baity found herself in the same position as her mother, a single mom raising three children.
She met her current husband, Kurt, in 1982. He later introduced her to North Carolina and Yadkin County. Kurt was a native of the Courtney area, and his family still resided there.
“His father was very, very ill and at the time we just weren’t happy with where we were and felt like we needed to get out of Atlanta and get the children out of Atlanta,” Baity said. “In January 1985, the coldest January on record right now in North Carolina, we moved.”
The move wasn’t an easy one for Baity with two teenage children and no job or home to live in. It didn’t take long, however, before Baity found work for an insurance company, and Kurt went to work selling cookware.
“[Yadkin County] was very, very country to us,” Baity said. “I had this concept of people being ignorant at first. But that concept didn’t last long; people were just slower and they talked slower, and then we started getting involved in schools and working. Then my whole perspective about North Carolina and the people here changed.”
When Baity’s youngest daughter went to Western Carolina University, she needed to pick up an extra job for some extra income so she began working as a waitress part time.
After a while she and her husband decided to open a restaurant.
They tried to start by buying a barbecue house, but the business owner backed out of the deal.
“By then we had caught the restaurant bug,” Baity said. “In September 1997 we took an old Hardees building in Mocksville, remodeled it and reopened it as a full-scale mom and pop type restaurant. It was called Pot Man’s Restaurant.”
After a while they couple closed up Pot Man’s and opened up Battle Branch restaurant in the Huntsville-Courtney area. They were going to lose the woman who created their desserts because she didn’t have a state approved kitchen when Baity decided that she wanted to branch out and start a bakery.
She opened her first bakery on Highway 601 in December 2004. In January 2007 she moved to Yadkinville and established the Branch Bakery & Sweet Shoppe.
Baity’s little bakery was about to bring about another opportunity when the Yadkin County Arts Council set out to create their building and wanted Baity to set up a coffee and muffin shop inside.
“I thought that it would never happen because you can’t make a living off coffee and muffins, but I told him when he got ready to just let me know and we would talk then,” Baity said.
That time came, and Baity finally found a way to start another new area in her career by opening The Third Branch Deli and Coffee Shop.
“We approached it with a different attitude than we had with Battle Branch because there’s lots of fat and butter and it’s just good old, southern home cooking,” Baity said. “We felt like the future was going to lean towards the healthier end and so we wanted to use whole meats and we wanted to carry organic salads. It just kind of fit that building.”
Baity said that she and her husband are still owners of Battle Branch restaurant until June 30 and after that they will look towards other possible ventures such as catering or maybe even another restaurant.
“I always felt like one door closing always leads to another one opening,” Baity said. “I don’t want the big 200-seat restaurant; I just don’t want the stress of that. I like the smallness and I like knowing my customers when they come in the door.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.