When the economy went sour, three enterprising women turned to sweets. Over the past few months, three specialty bakeries have opened within a stone's throw of each other in downtown Dade City, offering tempting confections and sugary treats. Kristie Golladay's Kupcake ... For All Things Sweet opened in April with a focus on gourmet cupcakes and birthday party favors. Heather Frederick launched Bear's Bakeshop this spring with fresh breads, pastries, sandwiches and salads. And Vickie West joins the club today with the launch of Betty Cakes, a spin-off of the popular cake design studio in Ocala.
Is there enough appetite for all three in a downtown hungry for revitalization?
"If they can capture the locals and persuade the Lake Jovita residents to make a left turn toward Dade City instead of Tampa, they can make it," said Gail Greenfelder, owner of the successful Kafe Kokopelli, who leased the space to West for Betty Cakes.
The bakeries offer different treats to the diverse crowd of government workers, antique shoppers, residents and retirees who pass through downtown. But the women behind all three ventures have similar stories: They all have deep roots in Pasco County; learned at the feet of their grandmothers; pursued catering professions; remain married to their first husbands; and are living a dream to build something big by starting out small.
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Heather "Bear" Frederick, 34, is a self-described beauty school dropout. She said she launched Bear's Bake Shop and Lunchroom (14123 Seventh St.) in March and has been selling out of her signature hummingbird cake and homemade marshmallows at the casual lunch shop.
Frederick grew up in her mother's Dade City salon. She began training to become a hair stylist until she realized it just wasn't her passion. She felt the pull of her two grandmothers, who vied for affection with biscuits and pound cakes.
"One way or the other I was in the kitchen and that's where I never got burned out," Frederick said.
She shifted her studies to the pastry school at the Tampa Art Institute, and began in 2001 baking bread and treats for friends, and later at A Pearl in the Grove Restaurant.
She decided recently to open her own bakery — "my time is now," she said — and picked a storefront close to her two teenagers' schools because "Dade City is a cool, eclectic place."
She said she is determined to make the venture a success: "We dipped into our savings to buy used equipment and countertops.
"This is very serious business," she said. "We need to send our kids to college, and someday I want to be able to take a trip to Paris with my husband. I'm going to make that happen."
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Kupcake . . . For All Things Sweet (37836 Meridian Ave.) grew out of Kristie Golladay's knack for irresistible birthday treats. The stay-at-home mother of four turned heads at her kids' birthday parties with her made-from-scratch cupcakes.
"All I can say is that no one can recreate my butter cream frosting," said Golladay, 38.
She began catering children's birthday parties, and then demand grew for the other tasty treats Golladay whipped up on the side. She decided this spring the time had come to turn her old-fashioned sweets and 100-year-old family recipes into a full-time venture.
Her cozy, playful store is also stocked with party favors her kids helped select, such as Me! Bath fizzies and organic nail polish.
"The blingy watches, fairy dust and magic wands are popular even with adults," she said.
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Local caterer Vickie West opens Betty Cakes (37941 Meridian Ave.) today with the help of longtime friend and mentor Betty Williamson, who founded the original Betty Cakes in Ocala eight years ago.
"It's amazing that the economic downturn hasn't affected us at all," Williamson said. "Through all these problems, we've continued to grow and 2010 was our largest year so far.
West, 57, approached Williamson about expanding Betty Cakes to other locations, so they embarked on a franchising plan with the bakery's top-secret recipes. The agreement gives West the first option on any expansion into the Tampa Bay area.
The Dade City location will be the only exclusive cake shop within 50 miles, West said. Her husband, David, who is a community relations coordinator for the St. Petersburg Times, provided some of the sweat equity to convert the former Trixie's chicken restaurant into a cozy French Quarter-style space.
West is confident there's a demand for the designer decadent cakes. Betty Cakes will also serve teas, special coffees and smoothies.
"In short, people are looking for comfort food," she said. "They'll keep getting married and celebrating special events."
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Heather Frederick, owner of Bear's Bake Shop and Lunchroom in Dade City, did not make a comment about the recession that was attributed to her in the original version of this story. The story also gave an incorrect opening date for her lunch spot and bakery, which she said began serving customers in March.
Olga's Bakery & Deli
Founded four decades ago by Olga Garcia, the bakery at 14117 Seventh St. still serves up freshly made doughnuts, pastries, soups and sandwiches.
Chris Dious, 45, purchased the bakery eight years ago after the founder's death. He has been working ever since to follow his own family tradition.
Dious took his restaurant supply experience and updated the equipment at Olga's while preserving the mom-and-pop atmosphere. Olga's also continues the practice of giving away leftover doughnuts to students before and after school from its back door.
"It's a big circle," Dious said, "because I used to be one of those students waiting in the alleyway."
What does he think about the three new bakeries opening nearby? Dious wishes them all luck.
"It's a tough racket in such a small town," he said.