Open: Monday-Friday 7 am to 2 pm
Saturday 10 am to 3 pm
[/su_note]When Mary Hospodarsky graduated from high school in 2001, she, like many of her classmates, wanted nothing more than to get out of Akron.
“There wasn’t much going on downtown,” she recalls. “And everyone said, ‘We need to get out of here. There’s nothing to do.’”
That year, Hospodarsky left town to attend college. But when she returned to Akron two years later, she came to a realization.
“It dawned on me that the reason there’s nothing down here is that people like me won’t take the initiative to bring something down here.”
On December 15, Hospodarsky’s company, Sweet Mary’s Bakery, opened its first retail location at 76 East Mill Street in Greystone Hall across from the John S. Knight Center.
Her business, like her food, was made from scratch. Though she has always loved to cook, Hospodarsky has no formal training as a baker.
“Google and YouTube were my culinary school,” she says. “And my mom.”
Indeed, she traces her passion for baking to her childhood.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. So for Christmas, a lot of extended family—aunts and uncles—they would get Christmas cookies.”
Hospodarsky estimates that she, together with her mother and two sisters, would bake more than a thousand frosted sugar cookies every Christmas.
Hospodarsky developed a keen business sense at a young age. By the time she was 10, she was selling homemade cookies from a stand in front of her house.
“I figured out around that age, too, that if I used coupons, I could buy popsicles and ice cream sandwiches at Marc’s, and then I could sell them for twice what I paid for them and they would still be less than what the popsicle man was selling them for,” she says.
That enterprising spirit, combined with her talent in the kitchen, has served Hospodarsky well. In 2006, she started Sweet Mary’s Bakery, Ltd. For the past nine years, she has diligently built her business, selling freshly made baked goods to appreciative Akronites. This year, Sweet Mary’s Bakery was voted into the top five on the Akron-Canton Hotlist for best wedding cakes.
This month, after a couple false starts, Sweet Mary’s finally has a retail storefront. Open from 7 am to 2 pm on most days, the bakery serves cookies, cakes, pies and other baked goods, including “sammiches,” portable meals made by baking sandwich fillings inside Sweet Mary’s dinner roll dough.
As a native Akron business owner, Hospodarsky is committed to supporting other local businesses. Sweet Mary’s Bakery sells Akron Honey, coffee from Bent Tree Coffee Roasters, drinks from NORKA and focuses on using locally-sourced ingredients in its baked goods.
Most importantly, Hospodarsky is devoted to ensuring the quality of the food she makes.
“I want there to be that hands-on experience,” she says, “because that’s where I feel the quality comes from: the attention to detail and the personal care.”
She, along with a small staff that includes her mother, works in the bakery every day.
“When people get things here, they’ll know that we’ve made it. We started with flour and sugar and butter, and we made it into that. Fresh. …My religion is baking from scratch, and there’s a purity to it that’s really refreshing and satisfying.”
Andrew Leask, a recent newcomer to Akron, grew up in tropical Bayamón, Puerto Rico. He awaits his first Northeast Ohio winter with growing unease.