Bakery in Albion enjoys busy first year at the ‘Backroom’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 November 2020 at 12:32 pm

Several vendors offer variety of items at the site on North Liberty

Photos by Tom Rivers: Sarah Ebbs and her mother Pamela Jenks own Pretty Sweet Bakery, which is located in “The Backroom” at 117 North Liberty St. The share space with Maureen Bennett’s business, A Lil’ Cottage Chic.

ALBION – A year ago a business opened in downtown Albion with a bakery and a shop with “an eclectic mix of vintage” – handcrafted gifts, gourmet dips, candles and seasonal décor, soaps, spaghetti sauce, lanterns and other items.

“The Backroom” at 117 North Liberty St. has made it to a year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Maureen Bennett pushed to open the business following nine years as a vendor in the Downtown Browsery. She also had retired from Albion Central School.

She was joined at the downtown site by Pamela Jenks and her daughter Sarah Ebbs. They run Pretty Sweet Bakery together.

Jenks, 54, had been working as a servicer for a mortgage company in Elma. She had talked for years of opening a bakery. Her daughter joined the effort, expecting to squeeze in some time when she wasn’t doing a full-time job driving to Geneseo as a student loan collector. That position was eliminated in late March due to the financial impact of Covid-19.

Ebbs, 33, was able to make the bakery a full-time pursuit with her mother. The site and other bakeries were deemed an essential business by the state and never had to close during the pandemic.

Pam and Sarah praised the building’s owner, Michael Bonafede, for putting in a kitchen certified by the Health Department. The location also benefits from a big parking lot that serves Five Star Bank and other businesses.

“There is plenty of parking and people can get in and out quickly,” Pam said. “So many of the people that come in say we finally have a home-made bakery in the downtown.”

Sarah Ebbs decorates a cookie with a holiday theme.

They have seen the business steadily grow the past year. Pam does lots of the baking and her daughter Sarah has an artistic flair for decorating the cookies, scones, muffins, pies and cakes. Sarah is a baker, too, who enjoys experimenting with ingredients to add new flavors.

“We both love what we’re doing,” Sarah said at the bakery on Thursday. “Every day is a science project where we try new things.”

Sarah often brings her daughter Charli to the shop. She will be 3 in January. She is wuick to learn peoples’ names and gives them big greetings and sendoffs.

Sarah has enjoyed baking and decorating since she was a kid, helping her grandmother Beulah Jenks who had a wedding cake business.

Sarah would make cakes and other baked goods for friends and family. She always has had a knack for decorating the cookies, and has the family gene for baking, her mother said.

Sarah is thankful for the response from the community the past year, with many people stopping by the shop or ordering for pickups. That has helped her weather what would have been a rough time with her job being eliminated in March.

“This is a supportive community,” she said about Albion. “There are a lot of people who want to see things work.”

Some of the bakery’s hot sellers have been raspberry cheesecake bars, lemon blueberry cake with whipped cream cheese frosting, pumpkin sandwich cookies, and cookie cutout with royal icing. Pam and Sarah also take orders for cakes for birthdays, weddings and other special events. Sarah posts frequent photos of the creations on the bakery’s Facebook page.

Maureen Bennett opened A Lil’ Cottage Chic a year ago after nine years as a vendor at the Downtown Browsery. She is shown with Charli, Sarah Ebbs’ daughter who delights in greeting customers at the shop.

Bennett, owner of A Lil’ Cottage Chic, said the bakery and Bennett’s shop have been a winning combination.

“We complement each other,” Bennett said. “They have the home-baked goods and we have so many home-made items.”

Bennett urged the community to support the local businesses in the downtown, which she said are safer with generally only a few people in the stores during the Covid pandemic.

“These little stores have far less people,” she said.

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