Our Towns

With Flavors Galore, Bake Me Treat Opens Doors

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POLAND, Ohio – For Gabriele Brocker, the dream of running her own bakery didn’t begin when she worked at a Pittsburgh patisserie. Or a Columbus cake shop. Or even when she enrolled in culinary school.

It started well before that, in Poland Middle School and in the Brocker family kitchen here, a short jaunt from her new shop, Bake Me Treats, right in the heart of this village.

“I would make anything I could. I’d watch the Food Network all the time and anything that looked good on TV is what I’d try and remake in our kitchen,” the baker said Tuesday morning at the grand opening of her store. “I was always interested in baking and spending time in the kitchen, so I always wanted to start my own thing.”

The years of experimenting and learning in the kitchen paid off, her father, Brad Brocker, said, but there were difficulties along the way,

“She definitely took over baking in the house. She was always baking, but she wasn’t too good at cleaning up after,” he said with a laugh. “We always knew when she was baking and she did it a lot.”

After high school, Gabriele Brocker enrolled in the culinary school at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh along with fellow Poland Seminary High School graduate, and part-time employee, Blaine Mochtyak. The two went their separate ways after graduating, Brocker to a pastry shop in Pittsburgh before moving on to a cake shop in Columbus.

Her two stops after training set the tone for Bake Me Treats, Brocker said.

“I took all of my passions and brought them together in my own bakery. So there are things like macarons and cakes, which I learned at other bakeries,” she said. “Those are the two big ones, but we also do brownies and cupcakes, along with coffee and espresso.”

Since the soft opening last year, it’s been the macarons that customers can’t get enough of. Shortly after the ribbon cutting, a line of customers snaked their way around the shop and nearly out the door, buying boxes of the colorful treats with flavors that ranged from spicy chocolate to maple bacon to rose.

“I try to switch them all up. There are ones that stay, like the salted caramel and coffee flavors, but then I add in seasonal ones,” the baker said. “Around Christmas I did candy cane and gingerbread flavors. I try to take inspiration from other desserts and put them into the macarons.”

Part of the attraction, Brocker surmised, is the open floor plan of the store, 16 S. Main St., where customers can see into the kitchen and watch Brocker and Mochtyak make cakes, brownies and macarons.

Her pastries are catching on at other stores. Branch Street Coffee Roasters in Boardman started carrying Brocker’s macarons shortly after the café opened last summer.

“I cannot keep them in stock. They fly off the shelves. If I had more refrigeration space, I could carry twice as much and still be short,” said Branch Street owner Matt Campbell. “They’re that popular.”

Tuesday morning, he was picking up the first of his two weekly orders and took a few for himself. The flavors for his personal order change every week, he said, because no one flavor stands out above the rest.

“Which one’s my favorite isn’t a fair question,” he elaborated. “It depends on which one I’m eating at the moment. They’re just an explosion of flavor.”

He paused a second. “If I had to pick just one right now, it’d be the blueberry muffin. But nothing gets released unless Gabriele knows it’s better than the last batch.”

Even on official opening day, the number of people entering and leaving astounded Brocker. About half of the crowd at the ribbon cutting was friends and family. She had hoped they would be there, but the other half – the customers – were a pleasant surprise.

“You get a little bit nervous and hope that you don’t run out of products when you have that many people coming in,” Brad Brocker said. “We’re very proud of her. She’s worked hard and it’s paid off.”

Through her first rush of business, Gabriele Brocker kept a smile and made sure to talk to everyone who walked through her doors.

“I would be so surprised if high school me saw me here today,” she said. “I would be impressed if I were in grade school or high school, working in my kitchen at home, and saw what I’m doing today. It’s crazy what you can do if you work toward it.”

Pictured: Gabriele Brocker.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.