Funny how a business seems to be around forever and then you find out it’s on its third owner, as is the case with Carriage Trade Pastries.
It was Carriage Trade’s darling polar bear cut-outs that caught our eye on Twitter, so we investigated.
Originally opened in 1998 in the Elmwood Village, Carriage Trade is now owned by Jeanne Rollo, who purchased the business in 2014 from Shandra and Andy Buetner, who had moved from the Elmwood Village to the current location at 1654 Elmwood Ave.
For years, Rollo had worked as Oliver’s pastry chef. One day a delivery guy from Guercio & Sons told her Carriage Trade was for sale and that she should check it out. She did and promptly bought the business which had a smooth transition without closing between owners. Thankfully her husband, Mike, was on board with her decision (and as a bonus, could fix things like refrigeration).
Rollo plunged in head first on day one and promptly cut her finger requiring stitches.
Or as she recalled that holiday season, “It was pure hell.”
Rollo two bakery elves she barely knew (and had to leave in charge on that first day) — Mallory Sullivan and April Nadir. Today they continue to be her rock solid employees.
But now it’s 2016 and Rollo is in the thick of her third holiday season.
“I am getting a handle on things. It truly was baptism by fire,” she said.
Despite her former pastry chef status, Rollo sticks with the homey basics, including recipes from Carriage Trade’s history. “Why change something that works? We have great regular customers who come in looking for their favorites. We can’t change,” Rollo said.
One of the biggest changes she did make, however was to increase the bakery’s daily retail selections, adding more cases. People coming in off the street have a good selection of things like luscious lemon blueberry bars and gooey sticky bun (below).
Folks can enjoy the nostalgia, too — a slice of pie and cup of coffee for $4. During the winter, soup is available, as well and great conversation with the super friendly Rollo.
For the holidays we spotted lots of great goodies that frankly we don’t have time to make, including the lovely Yule Log ($36) that was for sale. Normally a special order, Rollo had it on hand because she said, “When you make one, you might as well make two.”
Carriage Trade is taking orders for the holidays. Cut-outs can be done with or without anise. Gingerbread men will be available, too.
Stop in the shop or visit online to see what else they’ve got baking.
Rollo plans on making a gingerbread house for display in the shop, but is open for special orders. She notes the tradition goes back to when she was a kid and her family would dig their gingerbread house out of storage year-after-year to put on the piano.
“It finally disintegrated,” she laughed. Now she can build herself a new one, once she finds some time.
1654 Elmwood Ave. (881-2326)
Parking: Side of building.
Holiday hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.