Touch of Velvet bakery touches lives

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WJHG) - Gary and Maxine Pope own the 'Touch of Velvet' bakery in Lynn Haven.

"Red velvet cake was the first cake we were making," explained Gary. "So we got the name velvet and knew we were gonna touch the world with red velvet."

While life is sweet now, Gary's story could have had a very sour ending.

"I started dealing with drugs at the age of 10," said Gary. "I started experimenting and then it got from experimenting to habit and I was dealing with drugs for 28 years until I was 38 years old."

Gary said his life was spiraling out of control.

"People saw me where I was and said, 'You're never going to be anybody or go anywhere. You'll never amount to anything. You'll be in jail all your life if you even live to be age 25,'" Gary said.

But behind bars is where Gary says he found freedom.

"I say I was born and raised in jail in Panama City," said Gary. "But I was born again, delivered and set free in the Bay County Jail."

Most people didn't believe Gary when he told them he was a different man.

"Some people get saved in jail and they say, 'Oh, it's jailhouse religion,'" said Gary. "Well, it's been 27 years now so they figured this ain't jailhouse religion."

Gary has been back to prison many times since then but for a very different reason.

"I go and preach in the prisons now," explained Gary. "And the same jail I got saved in I preach there also. They say they can relate to me because I've been there. But I can relate to them too."

So how did he go from making drug deals to making cakes?

"This is what I was destined to do," Gary said. "God had already had this in his plan. Even when I was doing drugs God saw me here with this beautiful woman."

Gary and Maxine met at church. He describes her as a people person. She describes him as a talker. After 25 years of marriage, their sweet love story still has the perfect mix of ingredients.

"We work 12 hours a day together, then we go shopping together and just have fun together," said Gary.

"Happiness is being married to your best friend," added Maxine. "We know we couldn't do it without Christ."

They moved their business into a storefront in Lynn Haven eight years ago. Their cakes are very popular. Chances are you've eaten a slice at one of your favorite restaurants.

"Rodeo's [Steak Pit], they get our cakes," said Gary. "Andy's Flour Power on the beach, Callahan's in Destin, Edgewater on the beach."

And the cookies are the size of a small dinner plate and will satisfy any sweet tooth.

"My mom used to tell me you can only get one. So I fixed that problem," laughed Gary.

He also claims you don't have to worry about the calories in his store.

"This is all health food. You got eggs, milk, you got vegetables. Some of 'em got carrots," he said pointing to the carrot cake.

Some people come for the goodies but after spending time with the Popes they walk away with a good feeling.

"People come here to get prayer. This is a house of prayer also," said Gary. "Sometimes people come and get their goods. After they get prayer and they walk out the door we have to yell, 'Hey, you forgot your cake!'"

It might have been easy for Gary to listen and believe the voices saying he would never amount to anything, but he chose to listen and believe another voice.

"I used to think that I wasn't nobody," said Gary. "But I am somebody now in Christ. Where you start at is not necessarily where you've got to end.

Touch of Velvet is located at 1219 Ohio Avenue. Their number is 850-441-3224.