In the days leading up to the reopening of Sweet Mary’s Bakery, the downtown shop smells aromatic of breakfast food as the staff prepares cheddar and bacon biscuits, a fan favorite developed from the owner’s mother’s recipe.
For the first time in a year and a half, the downtown mainstay is reopening its storefront with new operating hours and tasty additions.
Sweet Mary’s, which first opened in 2015 and has quickly become a beloved bakery for many Akronites, closed their doors for the pandemic just hours before Gov. Mike DeWine’s mandate that Ohio restaurants operate carry-out only in March 2020.
Like every small business owner, Mary Hospodarsky had to pivot. Instead of maintaining normal operating hours, she created a special menu for various occasions, including major holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but also celebrations such as Bastille Day, offering up themed pastries for customers to purchase online. About once a month, Akronites had the opportunity to order pastries for pickup — if they were quick enough. Oftentimes, the most coveted items were sold out within minutes.
“I was shocked by how much support we got,” Hospodarsky said. “Our sales during the pandemic were actually better than day to day. We even added new customers who never came in before the pandemic.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming holiday season, which is typically Sweet Mary’s busiest time, Hospodarsky decided it was time to bring Akron back into her store. They started with a soft launch the weekend of the Akron Marathon, which had a start line just blocks from the bakery. The grand reopening is Friday, Oct. 1, with some big changes.
Though the bakery is now open for fewer days — Thursday through Sunday instead of Tuesday through Sunday — new extended hours now allow patrons to enjoy a treat from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The dining room that made up a majority of the bakery is no more. Hospodarsky said it was not very profitable and was usually empty during the week, so she renovated and nearly tripled their kitchen space, making way for new equipment and more space for employees.
There are also some exciting additions: an espresso machine and a dough sheeter, which will increase production of laminated pastries such as croissants and danishes.
“A lot of changes we made are in the best interests of not just us, but the customers,” Hospodarsky said. “During the pandemic, we were able to cut down a lot on our food waste and expenses to see what was working and what wasn’t. Everything that’s different now is in the name of quality and being better at what we’re doing.”
Sweet Mary’s will have all their classic favorites back in their pastry case, but they plan to continue experimenting the way they did during the pandemic with rotating items.
“It’s nice to not only welcome people back in, but also see people who became customers during all this for the first time inside,” she said. “We’re very grateful for Akron and the support they’ve given us, because we plan on being here for a while, pandemic or not.”
Sweet Mary’s reopens Oct. 1. Operating hours are from Thursday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The entire staff is vaccinated, and masks are required to enter.
Abbey Marshall covers economic development for The Devil Strip via Report for America. Reach her at email@example.com.
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