By Gianna Volpe
Though it’s never been more difficult for folks to remain within the village that raised them long enough to watch their own kids walk the same streets they did as youngsters, two Sag Harbor women have found a niche that’s only sweetening their relationship to the community.
Michele “Mimi” Yardley and Margaret Wagner began the Sag Harbor Baking Company in December of 2011 after years of ongoing discussions as two mothers dreaming about a bakery they would one day own.
“The first day that we opened the door, people came in and we said, ‘Oh my God, here it is,’ — it’s a bakery,” Ms. Wagner said, fondly remembering the local patisserie’s opening five years ago. “Our business increases every year, so it gets busier all the time, but we’ll probably celebrate the five-year anniversary by forgetting, going into work and then remembering five days later.”
The California Culinary Academy graduate served two decades as a pastry chef in restaurants throughout Los Angeles and San Francisco before returning to Sag Harbor and raise her four children alongside life-long friend, Ms. Yardley. “We would see each other when we were with our kids because when I moved back here neither of us were working [in order] to take care of our children,” said Ms. Wagner of how a woman she’d known since kindergarten ultimately evolved into her business partner. “We were friends and had talked about owning a bakery for years…Mimi always loved to cook and bake and decorate and I had the training…”
Ms. Wagner said being seasonally minded has only helped the bakery guard itself from the region’s seasonality resulting in the company becoming a trusted local name in custom cakes.
“We’re busy all year-round,” she said. “We don’t have issues with [seasonality] because bakeries are also holiday-driven, so you have Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Passover, Hanukah—And there’s always birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations.”
Creating cakes for special circumstances is the best part of the business for Ms. Yardley.
“It’s very rewarding work,” Ms. Yardley said of how specialty cakes have helped connect the Sag Harbor Baking Co. to intimate and incredible moments spanning community.
“These moments range from being a part of someone’s wedding to someone celebrating the anniversary of a heart transplant or a 100th birthday party—which we’ve done for two different people. Thinking about all those little moments is incredible because every cake is unique, even if it’s a first birthday. That’s somebody’s special moment forever and we get to be a part of that.”
Ms. Wagner said whether one is trying to locate a baker passionate enough to take out a “The Gruffalo” from the library to ensure one’s munchkin has the brightest first birthday or one skilled enough to light taste buds on fire for peach blueberry pie, there’s something for everybody whom visits the Division Street bakery.
“We try to have something to fit everybody’s needs,” said Ms. Wagner. “We have people who come in to get chocolate chip cookies, love them and that’s the only thing they want and others who only want scones in the morning.”
And it’s not just the type of product that varies at the Sag Harbor Baking Company as the flavors of their pies, bars and other goodies also change throughout the seasons.
“We’re always keeping it fresh and will test out a lot of recipes in the fall and winter,” said Ms. Wagner. “Last fall we had a really popular apple crumb bar made with cinnamon and fall spices and in the winter we’ll do something a little more decadent that’s like a Snickers bar with caramel and peanuts and lots of chocolate.”
Things are so sweet in the bakery business that Ms. Yardley said she and her partner have now found themselves developing somewhat of a savory tooth.
“Sometimes it actually becomes a chore where it’s like, ‘You taste it—no, you taste it,” she said with a laugh. “We can smell the Corner Bar when they’re making their burgers and the Bagel Buoy when they’re making their bacon, but when people say to us, ‘It smells like cookies in here,’ we’re like, ‘We don’t even smell that.’”
Sag Harbor Baking Co. is located at 51 Division Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call (631) 899-4900 or visit facebook.com/SagHarborBakingCo.