Sweet success

The shelf life of goodies cooked up at Crumbles Bakery in Poland may not last long, but the lessons learned by workers here will.

Run by adults who attend Turning Point Residential Inc. and No Limits Alternative Center, Crumbles Bakery in Poland offers goodies from the heart and dedicated personnel.

Opening this summer, Crumbles Bakery works in conjunction with Turning Point Residential and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities system in Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

The program provides individuals with special needs the skills and pride of operating a food business.

Manager Lesley Phillips said the idea to open a bakery for the residents originated because they wanted to give them job training and the ability to work independently.

“They learn skills from the day center and then come here … It gives a sense of pride and real life experiences. They can go on to other jobs,” she said.

Phillips said the workers do everything involved in running a business – baking, packaging, cleaning, sales, decorations and crafts – allowing them to discover an area of interest.

“There’s nothing too big or too small. We try and find everyone’s niche,” she said. “The key is to find everyone’s ability, not focus on the disability. It’s more about what you can do to be successful and have a full life. It’s about being a part of a business for experience and options.”

About 16 participants work in the bakery throughout the day for a limited amount of hours. They rotate positions from baking to crafts for two shifts-one in the morning and then again in the afternoon. At each job area, the participants are split up into groups to work one-on-one with the personnel.

“We include everyone and we don’t go over the time limit. We want everyone to feel comfortable with what they’re doing,” Phillips said.

The bakery’s menu offers monthly specials, like holiday cookies, cupcakes and pies, and it centers on seasonal favorites.

“We try to focus on what they are learning that month,” the manager said.

All items that come out of the bakery are homemade, including the center pieces and packaging articles. The order sizes depends on the buyer, she said. Some of their favorite special events to cater are bridal and baby showers, allowing the workers to utilize their skills and create specifically for that event.

“We also do a lot of decorations and center pieces for the events. We provide party baskets with several pieces…something to take to a party as a a gift,” Phillips said.

Though large and personalized orders can get stressful, Phillips said the personnel and residents stay calm and bake through it, adjusting schedules to fit the buyer’s and bakery’s needs.

“We want to make sure the product comes out well with education,” she said. “It might take more time, but the purpose is to give something different to the community and also let the workers have a business of their own.”

Pastry Chef Betty Sweet works hands-on with the aspiring bakers in the kitchen teaching them whatever special orders are on the menu that month. Phillips said all the bakery’s recipes come from Sweet’s family, handed down from generations.

She also said the bakery buys and supports local businesses, and all the food and pastries are fresh and pure as possible.

“It might not have a long shelf life, but there’s no extra sugar or salt. No preservatives,” Phillips said.

Crumbles Bakery has several assistants who help with the baking, crafts and sales, and Phillips said they all have experienced backgrounds in the field, and they personally know someone or has a family member with special needs.

“Everyone has a heart for this,” Phillips said. “We come together to make this nice for the residents. This is their bakery. We’re here for them, and that’s the most important part.”

Phillips said the bakery hopes to open the inside dining area by early next year. As of now, buyers can come in, place orders over the phone or rent for a limited number of guests, but they’d like to offer a full-time space.

“Soon people can come in, sit and have a coffee or hot chocolate. Companies, clubs, parties…come in and have a muffin.”

The bakery has rented out the dining room for clubs before, and the response was so positive that the workers want to permanently provide a nice, homey experience and venue for everyone.

“It’s not your typical bakery. It’s more intimate,” Phillips said. “It’s good people and a good atmosphere.”