A sweet dream coming into reality
KIM DAMEWhile many small business ideas are crafted from passionate hobbies, the back story behind Gia's Cakes & Goodies runs even deeper.
Published: July 25, 2012
Published: July 25, 2012
After spending 14 years in the law industry, Samantha Long was looking for a career change. She was also dealing with the loss of her father to cancer.
"I wanted to do something that made me happy," she said. "Baking and smiling people make me happy."
Baking had always been a release for Long, who often brought her unique goodies to the office to share with coworkers while dealing with the pain of her loss.
Ironically, she dreamt one night of opening a bakery and described the dream to her mother who encouraged her even though neither knew anything about operating a bakery.
"She was going to help me," Long said. "Mom was amazing at running a business. She ran Dad's."
Gia's Cakes & Goodies, which was named after Long's daughter, Giannette, officially opened on September 11 in the Spring Hill East Shopping Center at 3155 Aerial Way next door to Target.
It was no easy grand opening.
"My mother had been diagnosed with a rare form of Nasal Cancer a few months after my father's death," Long said, her eyes pooling with emotion. "Ten months later she was gone."
The months leading up to the opening of the shop were difficult as Long worked to keep her focus while dealing with a second heartbreaking reality. But she plowed ahead, guided by her mother's encouragement and the amazing support from her family.
After losing her mother, Long was working on her largest order, 400 cupcakes for a breast cancer benefit. "I had to get them done the same day I was making funeral arrangements," she said. "It wasn't easy."
Now preparing to celebrate its first anniversary, Gia's Cakes & Goodies is becoming a go-to bakery for unique and classic bakery items.
It was a process since Long and her family had to mold their schedules to meet the demanding requirements of the bakery.
Days begin early, at 4 a.m., because everything is made fresh. Nothing is kept over into the next day. Whatever doesn't sell is recycled (cupcakes into cake balls and cookies into cheesecake crust) or donated.
"We love making things from scratch," she added.
With the help of Amy, the cake decorator, and Solange, the pastry chef, Gia's has become known for its unique novelty items, diverse cupcake flavors and custom one of kind cakes.
The cupcakes alone offer 100 different flavors, some seasonal and for a limited time. Their summer flavors include Orange Creamsicle, Watermelon and Rootbeer Float. Other unique choices include Honey Bacon, Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Raspberry and Rocky Road.
But Long is always looking for unique ideas to mix up their varieties. And they offer new options every Thursday.
She is so passionate about her shop that she recently sent in an audition video to Cupcake Wars, a reality show that airs on the Food Network. If her video is chosen, she and her staff will travel to California and compete on the show.
The audition video can be viewed on YouTube. "We've gotten over 900 hits on the video already," Long said. "We are just waiting to hear."
Gia's Cakes and Goodies is a diverse bakery. They bake several varieties of cakes, cookies, brownies, fresh filled cannolis, pies, and cake bites. They also offer catering and support local charity functions.
But Gia's custom cakes are earning the shop notoriety for their unique and creative designs.
"We use fondant," Long said, which is a thick, creamy sugar paste that allows the decorator to manipulate the designs. Novelty cakes depicting so many different creative displays pack a sample book at the front of the shop.
But they can recreate anything from any idea or custom design.
The process is quite involved as she first determines what the customer is looking for and they agree on a budget. Then she and Amy start crafting the design.
Custom cakes, especially those that use fondant, can take a few days to prepare. Therefore, cakes should be ordered well in advance of the event.
Ernie Winston, a frequent customer to Gia's, ordered his birthday cake recently. After discussing what he wanted, Gia's went to work, building a layer cake decorated with an edible figure, designed to look like the customer, sitting in a recliner with a remote control in one hand and a beer in the other.
"The only thing that wasn't edible was the little glasses because they were wire," Long said.
Winston was more than pleased with the end result.
Because fondant is expensive and time consuming, custom cakes from Gia's are a bit more costly than traditional supermarket varieties. But the end result is a completely custom cake made to the customer's specifications and budget.
Many of the cakes resemble those seen on Cake Boss, another reality cooking show that airs on TLC and uses custom platforms and unique designs. The similarities have, in fact, earned Long the nickname "Lil Boss", linking her connection to the popular reality show while poking fun at her tiny size.
Long stands just under five feet tall, but she is a lot of creative energy in a little package.
She is an imaginative baker, self-taught, and a passionate entrepreneur with a determination to succeed despite a multitude of challenges.
But she said she couldn't have done alone.
"I thank my amazing husband Jason, daughter Giannette, mother-in-law Sylvia, and friend Bill Koenig," she said, "as well as her amazing staff, Amy and Solange, for being there through the tough times and having such confidence in the bakery."
And she thanked her parents for always believing in her. "I wouldn't be the person I am today without them," she said.
Biz at a Glance
Name: Gia's Cakes & Goodies
Location: 3155 Aerial Way, Brooksville
Telephone: (352) 796-GIAS (4427)
Kim Dame is a correspondent for Hernando Today. She can be reached at Damewrites@yahoo.com.