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For partners, success is sweet

(ran PC edition)

It all started with a cream cheese brownie.

A moist, chocolatey cream cheese brownie.

From the brownie to a catering service, to a bakery, and on Sept. 1, Natalie Pyche and Pam Diaz will open the Tea House restaurant in San Antonio.

The two women met in church and later joined baking pans to create a plethora of sweets for their customers. Their bakery is the first one in San Antonio in 70 years.

"It was divine intervention," said Pyche, who lives in Wesley Chapel. "We both go to Saint Anthony's Church."

Diaz, who lives in San Antonio, created the recipe for the brownie and sold it wholesale to local stores and restaurants. After the two became partners in the San Ann Chef catering business, they decided there was a need for a bakery in the small community west of Dade City.

Located at 12304 Curley Road in San Antonio, the bakery sold $32 worth of pastries the first day.

"It has improved 100 times and then some," said Vikki Falin, the sales clerk. "And it is only day three of week four."

On a recent rain-soaked day, one customer after another came into the bakery.

Billy Cremeans, who lives next door to the bakery, said he checked it out and has been coming in ever since.

"I'll have to go on a diet again," he said. "Everything is good, but the brownies are the best."

The bakery is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; however, that might change. It all depends on a Magic Eight Ball that has a prominent place on the work desk in an office behind the bakery.

"All major decisions are made with it," said Pyche, joking. "When in doubt use the Eight Ball."

Falin says the bakery is usually sold out by 2:30 or 3 every afternoon, so shortening the hours might be a good thing.

Recently the women got the pastry account for the sky boxes at Raymond James Stadium.

"We went by to see Fine Hosts Corp., and Chef Mike tasted our desserts and said yes," Pyche said.

They will deliver 150 assorted cheesecakes, key lime pies and assorted tarts for each Tampa Bay Buccaneers home game.

Another of their accounts is Iavarone's Steak House in Tampa, where they supply all the restaurant's cheesecakes.

"We've been using their cheesecakes for a few months. It is a quality, homemade product, and we are proud to serve it," said owner Carmine Iavarone. "We specialize in homemade, and it is up to our standards. It is nice to have someone make it for us."

The catering part of their business is full service: weddings, showers, parties.

Pyche's mother, Carmen Gonzalez, and Diaz's mother, Frances McDonald, also are helping out.

"My mother and I did the brownies," Diaz said. "When Natalie joined us she brought a new dimension."

They have plans for the Tea House to serve full dinners.

"We hope to draw men in, too," Pyche said. "They can sit on the porch with their cigars and drink cafe con leche. It (the restaurant) won't be too froo-froo. We want the men to enjoy it."

At the bakery a variety of pastries are offered every day, including Godiva liqueur white and dark chocolate cakes, Danish-filled pastries, muffins, puff pastries, cheesecakes, bread and of course, the signature brownies.

Rich Jones stopped by to purchase two loaves of bread.

"I love fresh bread," said Jones, who lives in Mobile, Ala., and whose daughter, Jennifer Lister, lives in the area. "Now I have a double excuse for coming here to visit my daughter and the pastry shop."

_ Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail address is