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Grandma had the right recipe: a baking career

Rochester Business Journal
August 17, 2012

Playing host to a group debating wedding cake options could rattle even the calmest nerves. But to Debra Stirone, it is a normal day in her living room.

Stirone, 43, owns Gourmet Goodies, a cake and pastry business she runs out of a commercial kitchen built off the back of her house on Meadowlark Lane in Victor. She has always baked, she says, and when her grandmother told her at a young age that she could do it for a living, Stirone was sold.
 
After school, Stirone traveled and trained in Hawaii, coming back to Rochester in 1993. She worked as a pastry chef at the Daisy Flour Mill in Penfield. Thirteen years ago Stirone launched her business.
 
The Gourmet Goodies kitchen has expanded twice in the last five years to accommodate growth. Stirone employs one full-time and two part-time bakers and also hires interns for the summer. 
 
"Everyone is good in their amazing ways," she says. "Everyone has their niche, and we fit together really well and work as one." 
 
Gourmet Goodies bakes up to 10 wedding cakes a weekend, in addition to 10 specialty cakes, assorted pastries and cookies. There are weeks when Gourmet Goodies bakes close to 2,000 pastries.
 
"Wedding cakes are our biggest seller at this point, but it's been a close run of doing a smaller cake and then cake pops and cupcakes on the side; that's huge this year," Stirone says. "Specialty cakes are also a big thing now."
 
Gourmet Goodies comes up with its own cake and filling recipes, some from family members and some collected over the years. It offers 10 cake flavors; customers can choose from 19 different fillings. White raspberry and peanut butter fudge fillings have been popular this year.
 
Stirone says she tries to stay in the middle of the road in terms of pricing, with wedding cakes starting at $3.50 a slice and cupcakes and cake bites around $2. She says specialty cakes are priced at $50 for a standard 10-inch cake because more labor is involved.
 
"We have definitely seen a decrease in certain areas this year, but I've seen more specialty cakes than I've ever seen," Stirone says.
 
Gourmet Goodies retails at certain restaurants like the Soup Spoon in Victor and also works with Casa Larga Vineyards, the Rochester Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, and other hotels where guests can choose a wedding cake or pastries and cookies in lieu of one. 
 
"Basically it's a better deal for them," Stirone says of wedding customers. "If you go outside for a wedding cake, it can be anywhere from $800 to $1,000, but this is included in their package. So we charge the hotels a little less, but it's consistent work every weekend."
 
In the next five years, Stirone says, it would be exciting to move to a retail location. But for now she is comfortable with the way things are and has no plans for change.
 
Megan Goldschmidt was a Rochester Business Journal summer intern.
 
Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.
 
 
8/17/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.
 

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