Sag Harbor Baking Company Fills the Gap
By Emily J. Weitz
Sag Harbor has the quiet charm of an old European village, and it’s what draws people from all over to stroll down Main Street and soak in its quaintness. The stress of preparing an evening dinner party is nearly vanquished when the shopping can all be done on foot, hustling from one shop to the next to gather cheese, wine and meats.
But that shopping trip was never quite complete, because there was nowhere to buy the fresh bread to accompany the wine and cheese. There was no local baker. Until now.
Rounding out the small town shopping experience, Sag Harbor Baking Company has opened its doors just in time for the holidays, and they’ve done it in a way that only two local girls could.
Mimi Yardley and Margaret Brooks, who have known each other since they were kids at Sag Harbor Elementary, decided to go into the bakery business not only because they both loved it, but because “We wanted to fill that gaping hole,” says Yardley. “This really makes Sag Harbor like a walking market,” adds Brooks. “You don’t have to just go to the supermarket for everything now.”
The two weren’t sure when they were going to open, and it took a lot of time to get their tiny, expertly organized kitchen up and running.
“Originally we were hoping to open in the summer,” says Yardley, and then they both laugh. “That didn’t happen, but it’s probably better this way. We’re able to get into a groove this way.”
Since they opened last week, they’ve already established a core group of loyal customers, not the least of whom are kids coming in after school for their treats. It helps that Yardley and Brooks, between their two families, have seven kids that span grades three to 11 in the Sag Harbor public schools.
“The kids come in for hot pretzel sticks,” says Yardley. “Or black and white cookies and other nostalgic bakery fare.”
The fresh, fluffy donuts are high on the kids’ lists, and Yardley likes to guess what kind they want when they come in.
“Chocolate frosting with rainbow sprinkles?” she asks her own son, whose mouth curls into an anticipatory grin.
But it’s not only the young contingent that’s already hooked on the bakery.
“We’ve only been open for a week,” says Yardley, “and already we’ve had one guy come in every day to get his regular.”
On a chilly Saturday morning, there’s a buzz to the bakery and the door never stays closed for long. One customer comes in from the cold to peruse the bounty of pastries and muffins and decides “My kids would love… All of these I’m sure.”
She settles on a bran muffin with apricots and ginger for herself and some lindzer tarts to bring home.
Another customer loads up on lemon squares, two fresh baked focaccias, and a few slices of flourless chocolate cake. Everything, including the focaccia, is baked in-house, except for the loaves of bread.
“Our kitchen is teeny tiny,” explains Brooks, “so we didn’t have space for a bread oven. Any breads we can bake in a conventional oven we do.” Other breads are brought in fresh every morning.
Brooks has been in the business of baking for a long time. After graduating from Pierson, she left Sag Harbor and moved to California.
“I worked as a pastry chef in restaurants and bakeries in California for 20 years, and I came back six years ago,” she said.
Yardley was in a different industry entirely, working as a CPA and an accountant.
“But baking has always been something I really loved,” she says. “It’s very rewarding. We do a lot of special occasion baking, where we feel like we’re celebrating with people. Baking makes people happy.”
Some of the more rewarding projects they’ve had include a series of cakes for a 100th birthday and a cake to celebrate a successful heart transplant.
“For the three month anniversary of the transplant, we baked a low-salt heart-shaped cake,” says Yardley.
Special occasions abound this time of year, and Yardley and Brooks plan to put in plenty of hours in their little kitchen. With traditional yule log (Buche de Noel) sponge cakes, eggnog cheesecakes, holiday cookie platters and lots of other seasonal treats in addition to their regular offerings, they should be very busy delivering the holiday cheer.
“It’s a great time to be opening,” says Yardley.
Brooks adds, “We’re just looking forward to being a part of the community.”