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Abigail’s Bakery Creations Rises in Face of Challenges

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Take a quick look at the Facebook reviews for Abigail’s Bakery Creations, which opened last month in Austintown, and you’ll find such descriptions as delicious, yummy and darn good.

The baker, William Smith, is proud of those compliments, although he can’t speak to their accuracy.  “I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting any of my own food,” he says. That’s because, Smith explains, his taste buds are “extremely muted.”

Every now and then he treats himself to some ghost pepper sauce or something equally spicy because it’s the only way he can enjoy the taste sensation.

“I had a friend drop off some Carolina Reaper Sauce just so I could taste things,” he says.

Being unable to taste his own food is just one of the hurdles Smith has overcome on the long, and often frightening road to his current profession.

For about 25 years Smith was a manager for large retail stores, most recently the Dick’s Sporting Goods store near the Eastwood Mall in Niles. “It’s all I’ve done my entire adult life,” he says.

Jan. 5, 2016, began like any other day. Smith got up, got ready for work and hopped into his car.

Then, while driving on the state Route 711 interchange, he suddenly lost his vision. “It’s a scary moment when you’re driving down the road and you can’t see any longer,” he recalls.

Smith pulled his car over as best he could and then sat by the side of the road in the darkness, listening to the cars pass him. His vision returned after what he estimates was a couple of minutes, although he says it “felt like forever.”

Then the same thing happened a week later while he was at work. “The second time it was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Is it coming back?’ ”

That day, Jan. 12, 2016, was the last day Smith ever drove a car.

Since then he’s regained sight in his right eye, but other symptoms have manifested themselves. His pulse rate never goes below 100 beats per minute, even when he’s sleeping.

He’s also lost all feeling on the left side of his body, “and I’m left-handed. So that makes it even more fun,” he says, smiling despite the circumstances.

Smith has been to dozens of doctors and they tell him his condition is the result of multiple transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes.

He stayed on the payroll at Dick’s for a year, until he realized he wasn’t going to be able to return to work. His daily routine consisted of large amounts of time spent alone.

“My wife was at work. My daughter was at school. It get’s really boring when you don’t drive and you can’t walk 100 feet,” he explains.

Smith decided to fill his spare time with something productive, so he chose baking, despite the fact that he had never baked up to that point.

From his small home kitchen, Smith began by baking cookies. When a friend asked if he could bake a cake, he began experimenting. 

Because he can’t taste, Smith had friends taste-test his creations, tweaking the recipes as he went. Soon he was baking constantly and giving the food away to friends and family.

“My wife said, ‘You’re killing us. You need to start charging people something to make up for the hundreds of dollars a month that you’re spending giving away food,’ ” he says.

The conversation gave his wife, Natalie Smith, an idea, “I felt at a loss of what to do to help him,” she says. So she pushed him to open his own business. 

“Her idea. Her pushing me to do this, and at this point just awesome support,” William says of his wife.

Natalie also came up with the name, Abigail’s Bakery Creations, which is named for their seven-year-old daughter.

“To this day, I’m not allowed to crack an egg in my house,” says William of Abigail. “She always wants to help me.” 

For two years, Smith baked out of his house with the hopes of focusing his business on shipping. When he and Natalie discovered regulations prohibited businesses from shipping food outside the state unless it is prepared in a commercial kitchen, they began looking for a new home for the business.

On March 15, Abigail’s Bakery Creations officially opened at 4954 Mahoning Avenue in Austintown. On any given day the display cases contain everything from cakes to cookies to baklava.

“If it’s a dessert, we’ll do it,” he says.

Smith has found a niche creating flavors that he says other bakeries, “don’t do or don’t want to do.”

One example is his Lavender Rosemary Cake, a favorite of Natalie’s. “It’s so different and it’s so creative. That was my idea too,” she says, laughing.

His Pickleback Cupcakes are another.

“It’s a pickle cake and then we use a Jameson butter cream,” Smith explains. 

For their chocolate stout cupcakes, Smith uses Breakfast Stout beer by Paladin Brewing.The cupcake won the Peoples’ Choice Award for Best Cupcake in the Mahoning Valley Cupcake Competition in February.

Because he has limited use of his left hand, the one item Smith doesn’t bake is bread. So he’s partnered with Lynn Hodos, the owner of Kolache Galore and More in Boardman.

Hodos supplies Abigail’s with kolache and other breads.

“He’s a great guy and anything I can do to help,” Hodos says. 

Abigail’s will host a formal ribbon- cutting for the business April 15. 

Pictured: William Smith’s health conditions result from multiple transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.