NEW PORT RICHEY — When Kathy Schrader decided to turn a building on Grand Boulevard into a bakery, she and best friend Missy Donataccio had their work cut out for them.
The building made its debut as a house in the late 1940s, with later stints as a video store, florist, pizzeria, hot dog stand and Cuban restaurant. By the time Schrader and Donataccio got to it, the green and white tiled floors were stained brown and the walls were a stark white.
The duo scrubbed the floor for a week and a half, painted the building a soft brown, colored the door and trim a cheerful yellow, and filled the porch with flowers. Inside, the bakery is modern with vintage accents. The walls are teal and white, decorated with antique kitchen items, cookbooks and even a 1960s California raisin bank made of chalk. A coal bin door with a Victorian woman's face on it came from an old Tampa house, and in their hands became a piece of art, which customers have asked to buy. Wind chimes they crafted from old china jingle on the porch.
Redubbed Kathy's Rollin' in the Dough, the bakery opened in March 2012, and the best friends sell all manner of confections, from cookies, cupcakes and bread to cinnamon rolls, truffles, pizzas and pies, and Schrader and Donataccio are not afraid of special requests. Patrons regularly bring in recipes and ask the duo to try their hand.
"There are some things that we can't do, but we are definitely willing to do anything that someone has a recipe for," Schrader said.
The bakery's offerings are tailored to the season, with Schrader and Donataccio spending the fall whipping up a wide selection of home-style pies, the sweet fruit filling bubbling up through a golden brown lattice, which Schrader sends home in glass pie dishes, lent out on the honor system. They also offer other harvest fare like a creamy pumpkin pound cake with maple icing and a fragrant apple coffee cake with pecan streusel. Come Christmas, the bakery will overflow with (what else) cookies, assortments, and cinnamon rolls in the shape of a Christmas tree.
Though her baking looks and tastes professional, Schrader opened a bakery with no formal experience. Before she left the workforce to take care of her two young sons, she had several jobs in the automotive industry and opened a buffing business, Schrader's Ultra Buff, which she owned for 15 years. She filled her time with baking and volunteering at concession stands for her sons' sporting events. When her sons moved out, Schrader combated the empty nest by turning her baking hobby into a business.
As with all small businesses, large companies are the staunchest competitors. Chain stores offer convenience, but a local bakery like Kathy's Rollin' in the Dough can offer freshness. Everything at the bakery is made without preservatives, so it should be eaten or frozen within a day or two.
"We're hoping that our quality and what it tastes like brings everybody back," Schrader said. "I think once they taste it and they realize they're happy with that, (grocery store bakery items are) nothing in comparison."
One weekday morning, Paula York and Tim Morrow stopped by for breakfast. When York asked Morrow what he'd like, he shrugged.
"I'm not picky here," he said. "Anywhere else, I'm picky."
After selecting some blueberry muffins, York said that she has been a customer from the beginning and regularly shares the bakery's posts on Facebook.
"This is my second home," she said.
The bakery's location has also proved to be a challenge. Though convenient for the surrounding residential area, being off the beaten path makes it hard to reach a broad customer base. But Schrader revels in her devoted customers, who share their stories and mail her postcards when they move away. One customer who moved to Colorado wrote "Still no peanut butter cookies like yours. I'm telling you, you need to be here."
Another customer noticed a strawberry-patterned dish hanging on the wall, and before leaving town, dropped off her own set of the same dishes.
In return, Schrader is loyal to her customers. She and Donataccio once worked so hard and spent so much money on supplies for a customer's ladybug cupcakes that they broke even.
"Our main concern," she said, "is that we have satisfied customers."
Samantha Fuchs can be reached at (727) 869-6235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.